Aviation Safety Letter 2/2004

Weight and Balance of Aircraft

Weight and balance factors are critical to the safe operation of an aircraft. Weight and balance refer to the weight of an aircraft and the location of the centre of gravity. Aircraft are designed to operate within certain weight and balance limits.

Air operators must comply with Transport Canada weight and balance requirements for safe takeoffs and landings, as well as for maintaining control of the aircraft during flight. Canadian Aviation Regulations (CARs) prohibit an air operator from flying an aircraft unless, during every phase of flight, the load restrictions and weight and balance of the aircraft conform to the limitations specified in the approved aircraft flight manual.

In addition, there are strict regulations that require an air operator to have a Transport Canada-approved weight and balance system in place. Safety regulations require mandatory training for all air operator personnel and instructions to employees regarding the preparation and accuracy of weight and balance forms, to be filled out prior to takeoff, as well as detailed instructions on how to weigh and balance an aircraft. These regulations address items such as:

  • weight of passengers, carry-on baggage and checked baggage;
  • weight of the fuel load; and
  • balanced distribution of aircraft load.

Air operators have several options approved by Transport Canada to calculate passenger weight, such as weighing each passenger getting on-board, using statistical survey weights, or using Transport Canada's approved weight standards.

The current Transport Canada's passenger weight standards are:

  • males - summer 182 lbs, winter 188 lbs;
  • females - summer 135 lbs, winter 141 lbs;
  • children (2-11 years) - summer 75 lbs, winter 75 lbs;
  • infants (0-less than 2 years) - summer 30 lbs, winter 30 lbs; and
  • animals - the actual weights of the animals are used.

Air operators and pilots are required to ensure that the aircraft weight and balance remain within approved limits and to ensure that for instance, heavy-set individuals are accounted for accurately in the total passenger weight.

Transport Canada enforces compliance of regulatory requirements for weight and balance systems through a number of means, such as a comprehensive monitoring, inspections and audit program. Inspectors from the department will also conduct unannounced, on-the-field inspection to verify weight and balance. Should Transport Canada identify an air operator who does not comply, the department will take appropriate enforcement action. This action can range from a warning or monetary fines, to the suspension of licenses and air operator certificates.

Transport Canada continues to raise awareness within the civil aviation community on the safety consequences of flying an improperly loaded aircraft by publishing articles in safety publications and by conducting safety workshops across Canada every year.

More information on Commercial Air Service Standards and on weight and balance of aircraft is available at http://www.tc.gc.ca/eng/civilaviation/regserv/cars/part7-menu-2147.htm.