Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Effect of Temperature on Density

The effect of increasing the temperature of a substance is to decrease its density. Conversely, decreasing the temperature has the effect of increasing the density. Thus, the density of air varies inversely as the absolute temperature varies. This statement is true, only at a constant pressure.

In the atmosphere, both temperature and pressure decrease with altitude, and have conflicting effects upon density. However, the fairly rapid drop in pressure as altitude is increased usually has the dominating effect. Hence, density can be expected to decrease with altitude.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Effects of Pressure on Density

Since air is a gas, it can be compressed or expanded. When air is compressed, a greater amount of air can occupy a given volume. Conversely, when pressure on a given volume of air is decreased, the air expands and occupies a greater space. That is, the original column of air at a lower pressure contains a smaller mass of air. In other words, the density is decreased. In fact, density is directly proportional to pressure. If the pressure is doubled, the density is doubled, and if the pressure is lowered, so is the density. This statement is true, only at a constant temperature.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Atmospheric Pressure

Though there are various kinds of pressure, this discussion is mainly concerned with atmospheric pressure. It is one of the basic factors in weather changes, helps to lift the airplane, and actuates some of the important flight instruments in the airplane. These instruments are the altimeter, the airspeed indicator, the rate-of-climb indicator, and the manifold pressure gauge.

Though air is very light, it has mass and is affected by the attraction of gravity. Therefore, like any other substance, it has weight, and because of its weight, it has force. Since it is a fluid substance, this force is exerted equally in all directions, and its effect on bodies within the air is called pressure. Under standard conditions at sea level, the average pressure exerted on the human body by the weight of the atmosphere around it is approximately 14.7 lb./in. The density of air has significant effects on the airplane’s capability. As air becomes less dense, it reduces (1) power because the engine takes in less air, (2) thrust because the propeller is less efficient in thin air, and (3) lift because the thin air exerts less force on the airfoils.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Structure of the Atmosphere

The atmosphere in which flight is conducted is an envelope of air that surrounds the earth and rests upon its surface. It is as much a part of the earth as the seas or the land. However, air differs from land and water inasmuch as it is a mixture of gases. It has mass, weight, and indefinite shape.

Air, like any other fluid, is able to flow and change its shape when subjected to even minute pressures because of the lack of strong molecular cohesion. For example, gas will completely fill any container into which it is placed, expanding or contracting to adjust its shape to the limits of the container.

The atmosphere is composed of 78 percent nitrogen, 21 percent oxygen, and 1 percent other gases, such as argon or helium. As some of these elements are heavier than others, there is a natural tendency of these heavier elements, such as oxygen, to settle to the surface of the earth, while the lighter elements are lifted up to the region of higher altitude. This explains why most of the oxygen is contained below 35,000 feet altitude.

Because air has mass and weight, it is a body, and as a body, it reacts to the scientific laws of bodies in the same manner as other gaseous bodies. This body of air resting upon the surface of the earth has weight and at sea level develops an average pressure of 14.7 pounds on each square inch of surface, or 29.92 inches of mercury—but as its thickness is limited, the higher the altitude, the less air there is above. For this reason, the weight of the atmosphere at 18,000 feet is only one-half what it is at sea level. [Figure 2-1]

Friday, September 26, 2008

The Powerplant

The powerplant usually includes both the engine and the propeller. The primary function of the engine is to provide the power to turn the propeller. It also generates electrical power, provides a vacuum source for some flight instruments, and in most single-engine airplanes, provides a source of heat for the pilot and passengers. The engine is covered by a cowling, or in the case of some airplanes, surrounded by a nacelle. The purpose of the cowling or nacelle is to streamline the flow of air around the engine and to help cool the engine by ducting air around the cylinders. The propeller, mounted on the front of the engine, translates the rotating force of the engine into a forwardacting force called thrust that helps move the airplane through the air. [Figure 1-10]

Nacelle—A streamlined enclosure on an aircraft in which an engine is mounted. On multiengine propeller-driven airplanes, the nacelle is normally mounted on the leading edge of the wing.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Landing Gear

The landing gear is the principle support of the airplane when parked, taxiing, taking off, or when landing. The

most common type of landing gear consists of wheels, but airplanes can also be equipped with floats for water operations, or skis for landing on snow. [Figure 1-9]

The landing gear consists of three wheels—two main wheels and a third wheel positioned either at the front or rear of the airplane. Landing gear employing a rearmounted wheel is called conventional landing gear. Airplanes with conventional landing gear are sometimes referred to as tailwheel airplanes. When the third wheel is located on the nose, it is called a nosewheel, and the design is referred to as a tricycle gear. A steerable nosewheel or tailwheel permits the airplane to be controlled throughout all operations while on the ground.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


The correct name for the tail section of an airplane is empennage. The empennage includes the entire tail group, consisting of fixed surfaces such as the vertical stabilizer and the horizontal stabilizer. The movable surfaces include the rudder, the elevator, and one or more trim tabs. [Figure 1-7]

A second type of empennage design does not require an elevator. Instead, it incorporates a one-piece horizontal stabilizer that pivots from a central hinge point. This type of design is called a stabilator, and is moved using the control wheel, just as you would the elevator. For example, when you pull back on the control wheel, the stabilator pivots so the trailing edge moves up. This increases the aerodynamic tail load and causes the nose of the airplane to move up. Stabilators have an antiservo tab extending across their trailing edge. [Figure 1-8]

The antiservo tab moves in the same direction as the trailing edge of the stabilator. The antiservo tab also functions as a trim tab to relieve control pressures and helps maintain the stabilator in the desired position.

The rudder is attached to the back of the vertical stabilizer. During flight, it is used to move the airplane’s nose left and right. The rudder is used in combination with the ailerons for turns during flight. The elevator, which is attached to the back of the horizontal stabilizer, is used to move the nose of the airplane up and down during flight.

Trim tabs are small, movable portions of the trailing edge of the control surface. These movable trim tabs, which are controlled from the cockpit, reduce control pressures. Trim tabs may be installed on the ailerons, the rudder, and/or the elevator.

Empennage—The section of the airplane that consists of the vertical stabilizer, the horizontal stabilizer, and the associated control surfaces.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


The wings are airfoils attached to each side of the fuselage and are the main lifting surfaces that support the airplane in flight. There are numerous wing designs, sizes, and shapes used by the various manufacturers. Each fulfills a certain need with respect to the expected performance for the particular airplane. How the wing produces lift is explained in subsequent chapters.

Wings may be attached at the top, middle, or lower portion of the fuselage. These designs are referred to as high-, mid-, and low-wing, respectively. The number of wings can also vary. Airplanes with a single set of wings are referred to as monoplanes, while those with two sets are called biplanes. [Figure 1-5]

Many high-wing airplanes have external braces, or wing struts, which transmit the flight and landing loads through the struts to the main fuselage structure. Since the wing struts are usually attached approximately halfway out on the wing, this type of wing structure is called semi-cantilever. A few high-wing and most low-wing airplanes have a full cantilever wing designed to carry the loads without external struts.

The principal structural parts of the wing are spars, ribs, and stringers. [Figure 1-6] These are reinforced by trusses, I-beams, tubing, or other devices, including the skin. The wing ribs determine the shape and thickness of the wing (airfoil). In most modern airplanes, the fuel tanks either are an integral part of the wing’s structure, or consist of flexible containers mounted inside of the wing.

Attached to the rear, or trailing, edges of the wings are two types of control surfaces referred to as ailerons and flaps. Ailerons extend from about the midpoint of each wing outward toward the tip and move in opposite directions to create aerodynamic forces that cause the airplane to roll. Flaps extend outward from the fuselage to near the midpoint of each wing. The flaps are normally flush with the wing’s surface during cruising flight. When extended, the flaps move simultaneously downward to increase the lifting force of the wing for takeoffs and landings.

Airfoil—An airfoil is any surface, such as a wing, propeller, rudder, or even a trim tab, which provides aerodynamic force when it interacts with a moving stream of air. Monoplane—An airplane that has only one main lifting surface or wing, usually divided into two parts by the fuselage.

Biplane—An airplane that has two main airfoil surfaces or wings on each side of the fuselage, one placed above the other.

Monday, September 22, 2008


The fuselage includes the cabin and/or cockpit, which contains seats for the occupants and the controls for the airplane. In addition, the fuselage may also provide room for cargo and attachment points for the other major airplane components. Some aircraft utilize an open truss structure. The truss-type fuselage is constructed of steel or aluminum tubing. Strength and rigidity is achieved by welding the tubing together into a series of triangular shapes, called trusses. [Figure 1-2]

Construction of the Warren truss features longerons, as well as diagonal and vertical web members. To reduce weight, small airplanes generally utilize aluminum alloy tubing, which may be riveted or bolted into one piece with cross-bracing members.

As technology progressed, aircraft designers began to enclose the truss members to streamline the airplane and improve performance. This was originally accomplished with cloth fabric, which eventually gave way to lightweight metals such as aluminum. In some cases, the outside skin can support all or a major portion of the flight loads. Most modern aircraft use a form of this stressed skin structure known as monocoque or semimonocoque construction

The monocoque design uses stressed skin to support almost all imposed loads. This structure can be very strong but cannot tolerate dents or deformation of the surface. This characteristic is easily demonstrated by a thin aluminum beverage can. You can exert considerable force to the ends of the can without causing any damage.

Truss—A fuselage design made up of supporting structural members that resist deformation by applied loads.

Monocoque—A shell-like fuselage design in which the stressed outer skin is used to support the majority of imposed stresses. Monocoque fuselage design may include bulkheads but not stringers.

However, if the side of the can is dented only slightly, the can will collapse easily. The true monocoque construction mainly consists of the skin, formers, and bulkheads. The formers and bulkheads provide shape for the fuselage. [Figure 1-3]

Since no bracing members are present, the skin must be strong enough to keep the fuselage rigid. Thus, a significant problem involved in monocoque construction is maintaining enough strength while keeping the weight within allowable limits. Due to the limitations of the monocoque design, a semi-monocoque structure is used on many of today’s aircraft.

The semi-monocoque system uses a substructure to which the airplane’s skin is attached. The substructure, which consists of bulkheads and/or formers of various sizes and stringers, reinforces the stressed skin by taking some of the bending stress from the fuselage. The main section of the fuselage also includes wing attachment points and a firewall. [Figure 1-4]

Semi-Monocoque—A fuselage design that includes a substructure of bulkheads and/or formers, along with stringers, to support flight loads and stresses imposed on the fuselage.

On single-engine airplanes, the engine is usually attached to the front of the fuselage. There is a fireproof partition between the rear of the engine and the cockpit or cabin to protect the pilot and passengers from accidental engine fires. This partition is called a firewall and is usually made of heat-resistant material such as stainless steel.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Major Component of Aircraft Structure

According to the current Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations (14 CFR) part 1, Definitions and Abbreviations, an aircraft is a device that is used, or intended to be used, for flight. Categories of aircraft for certification of airmen include airplane, rotorcraft, lighter-than-air, powered-lift, and glider. Part 1 also defines airplane as an engine-driven, fixed-wing aircraft heavier than air that is supported in flight by the dynamic reaction of air against its wings. This chapterprovides a brief introduction to the airplane and its major components.

Aircraft—A device that is used for flight in the air.

Airplane—An engine-driven, fixed-wing aircraft heavier than air that is supported in flight by the dynamic reaction of air against its wings.

Although airplanes are designed for a variety of purposes, most of them have the same major components. The overall characteristics are largely determined by the original design objectives. Most airplane structures include a fuselage, wings, an empennage, landing gear, and a powerplant. [Figure 1-1]

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Basic Weight and Balance Equation

This equation can be rearranged to find the distance a weight must be shifted to give a desired change in the CG location:
This equation can also be rearranged to find the amount of weight to shift to move the CG to a desired location:
It can also be rearranged to find the amount the CG is moved when a given amount of weight is shifted:
Finally, this equation can be rearranged to find the total weight that would allow shifting a given amount of weight to move the CG a given distance:
Solution by Formula
This same problem can also be solved by using this basic equation:
Rearrange this formula to determine the distance weight B must be shifted:
The CG of the board in Figure 2-10 was 72 inches from the datum. This CG can be shifted to the center of the board as in Figure 2-13 by moving weight B. If the 200- pound weight B is moved 55 inches to the left, the CG will shift from 72 inches to 50 inches, a distance of 22 inches. The sum of the moments about the new CG will be zero. [Figure 2-14]
When the distance the weight is to be shifted is known, the amount of weight to be shifted to move the CG to any location can be determined by another arrangement of the basic equation. Use the following arrangement of the formula to determine the amount of weight that will have to be shifted from station 80 to station 25, to move the CG from station 72 to station 50.
If the 200-pound weight B is shifted from station 80 to station 25, the CG will move from station 72 to station 50.
A third arrangement of this basic equation may be used to determine the amount the CG is shifted when a given amount of weight is moved for a specified distance (as it was done in Figure 2-10). Use this formula to determine the amount the CG will be shifted when 200-pound weight B is moved from +80 to +25.
Moving weight B from +80 to +25 will move the CG 22 inches, from its original location at +72 to its new location at +50 as seen in Figure 2-13.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Shifting the CG

One common weight and balance problem involves moving passengers from one seat to another or shifting baggage or cargo from one compartment to another to move the CG to a desired location. This also can be visualized by using a board with three weights and then working out the problem the way it is actually done on an airplane.

Solution by Chart
The CG of a board can be moved by shifting the weights as demonstrated in Figure 2-10. As the board is loaded, it balances at a point 72 inches from the CG of weight A. [Figure 2-11]

To shift weight B so the board will balance about its center, 50 inches from the CG of weight A, first determine the arm of weight B that will produce a moment that causes the total moment of all three weights around this desired balance point to be zero. The combined moment of weights A and C around this new balance point, is 5,000 in-lb, so the moment of weight B will have to be -5,000 lbin in order for the board to balance. [Figure 2-12]

Determine the arm of weight B by dividing its moment, -5,000 lb-in, by its weight of 200 pounds. Its arm is -25 inches.

To balance the board at its center, weight B will have to be placed so its CG is 25 inches to the left of the center of the board, as in Figure 2-13.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Determining the CG

One of the easiest ways to understand weight and balance is to consider a board with weights placed at various locations. We can determine the CG of the board and observe the way the CG changes as the weights are moved.

The CG of a board like the one in Figure 2-4 may be determined by using these four steps:

  1. Measure the arm of each weight in inches from the datum.
  2. Multiply each arm by its weight in pounds to determine the moment in pound-inches of each weight.
  3. Determine the total of all weights and of all the moments. Disregard the weight of the board.
  4. Divide the total moment by the total weight to determine the CG in inches from the datum.

In Figure 2-4, the board has three weights, and the datum is located 50 inches to the left of the CG of weight A. Determine the CG by making a chart like the one in Figure 2-5. As noted in Figure 2-5, A weighs 100 pounds and is 50 inches from the datum: B weighs 100 pounds and is 90 inches from the datum; C weighs 200 pounds and is 150 inches from the datum. Thus the total of the three weights is 400 pounds, and the total moment is 44,000 lb-in.

Determine the CG by dividing the total moment by the total weight.

To prove this is the correct CG, move the datum to a location 110 to the right of the original datum and determine the arm of each weight from this new datum, as in Figure 2-6. Then make a new chart similar to the one in Figure 2-7. If the CG is correct, the sum of the moments will be zero.

The new arm of weight A is 110 - 50 = 60 inches, and since this weight is to the left of the datum, its arm is negative, or -60 inches. The new arm of weight B is 110 - 90 = 20 inches, and it is also to the left of the datum, so it is - 20; the new arm of weight C is 150 - 110 = 40 inches. It is to the right of the datum and is therefore positive.

The board is balanced when the sum of the moments is zero. The location of the datum used for determining the arms of the weights is not important; it can be anywhere. But all of the measurements must be made from the same datum location.

Determining the CG of an airplane is done in the same way as determining the CG of the board in the previous example. [Figure 2-8] Prepare the airplane for weighing and place it on three scales. All tare weight, that is, the weight of any chocks or devices used to hold the aircraft on the scales, is subtracted from the scale reading, and the net weight from each wheel weigh point is entered on the chart like the one in Figure 2-9. The arms of the weighing points are specified in the Type Certificate Data Sheet (TCDS) for the airplane in terms of stations, which are distances in inches from the datum. Tare weight also includes items used to level the aircraft.

The empty weight of this aircraft is 5,862 pounds. Its EWCG, determined by dividing the total moment by the total weight, is located at fuselage station 201.1. This is 201.1 inches behind the datum.

Monday, September 15, 2008

The Law of the Lever

The weight and balance problems are based on the physical law of the lever. This law states that a lever is balanced when the weight on one side of the fulcrum multiplied by its arm is equal to the weight on the opposite side multiplied by its arm. In other words, the lever is balanced when the algebraic sum of the moments about the fulcrum is zero. [Figure 2-2] This is the condition in which the positive moments (those that try to rotate the lever clockwise) are equal to the negative moments (those that try to rotate it counter-clockwise).

Consider these facts about the lever in Figure 2-2: The 100-pound weight A is located 50 inches to the left of the fulcrum (the datum, in this instance), and it has a moment of 100 X-50 = -5,000 in-lb. The 200-pound weight B is located 25 inches to the right of the fulcrum, and its moment is 200 x +25 = +5000 in-lb. The sum of the moment is -5000 + 5000 = 0, and the lever is balanced. [Figure 2-3] The forces that try to rotate it clockwise have the same magnitude as those that try to rotate it counterclockwise.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Aircraft Arms, Weight, and Moments

The term arm, usually measured in inches, refers to the distance between the center of gravity of an item or object and the datum. Arms ahead of, or to the left of the datum are negative (-), and those behind, or to the right of the datum are positive (+). When the datum is ahead of the aircraft, all of the arms are positive and computational errors are minimized. Weight is normally measured in pounds. When weight is removed from an aircraft, it is negative (-), and when added, it is positive (+).

The manufacturer establishes the maximum weight and range allowed for the CG, as measured in inches from the reference plane called the datum. Some manufacturers specify this range as measured in percentage of the mean aerodynamic chord (MAC), the leading edge of which is located a specified distance from the datum.

The datum may be located anywhere the manufacturer chooses; it is often the leading edge of the wing or some specific distance from an easily identified location. One popular location for the datum is a specified distance forward of the aircraft, measured in inches from some point, such as the nose of the aircraft, or the leading edge of the wing, or the engine firewall.

The datum of some helicopters is the center of the rotor mast, but this location causes some arms to be positive and others negative. To simplify weight and balance computations, most modern helicopters, like airplanes, have the datum located at the nose of the aircraft or a specified distance ahead of it.

A moment is a force that tries to cause rotation, and is the product of the arm, in inches, and the weight, in pounds. Moments are generally expressed in pound-inches (lb-in) and may be either positive or negative. Figure 2-1 shows the way the algebraic sign of a moment is derived. Positive moments cause an airplane to nose up, while negative moments cause it to nose down.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Weight and Balance Theory

Two elements are vital in the weight and balance considerations of an aircraft.

  • The total weight of the aircraft must be no greater than the maximum weight allowed by the FAA for the particular make and model of the aircraft.

  • The center of gravity, or the point at which all of the weight of the aircraft is considered to be concentrated, must be maintained within the allowable range for the operational weight of the aircraft.

Weight Control for Aircraft other than Fixed and Rotorwing

Some light aircraft utilize different methods of determining weight and balance from the traditional fixed and rotorwing aircraft. These aircraft achieve flight control differently than the fixed-wing airplane or helicopter. Most notable of these are weight shift control (WSC) aircraft (also known as trikes), powered parachutes, and balloons.

These aircraft typically do not specify either an empty weight center of gravity or a center of gravity range. They require only a certified or approved maximum weight.

To understand why this is so, a look at how flight control is achieved is helpful.

As an example, airplanes and WSC aircraft both control flight under the influence of the same four forces (lift, gravity, thrust, and drag), and around the same three axes (pitch, yaw, and roll). However, each aircraft accomplishes this control in a very different manner. This difference helps explain why the fixed-wing airplane requires an established weight and a known center of gravity, whereas the WSC aircraft only requires the known weight.

The fixed-wing airplane has moveable controls that alter the lift on various airfoil surfaces to vary pitch, roll, and yaw. These changes in lift, in turn, change the characteristics of the flight parameters. Weight normally decreases in flight due to fuel consumption, and the airplane center of gravity changes with this weight reduction. An airplane utilizes its variable flight controls to compensate and maintain controllability through the various flight modes and as the center of gravity changes. An airplane has a center of gravity range or envelope within which it must remain if the flight controls are to remain effective and the airplane safely operated.

The WSC aircraft has a relatively set platform wing without a tail. The pilot, achieves control by shifting weight. In the design of this aircraft, the weight of the airframe and its payload is attached to the wing at a single point in a pendulous arrangement. The pilot through the flight controls, controls the arm of this pendulum and thereby controls the aircraft. When a change in flight parameter is desired, the pilot displaces the aircraft’s weight in the appropriate distance and direction. This change momentarily disrupts the equilibrium between the four forces acting on the aircraft. The wing, due to its inherent stability, then moves appropriately to re-establish the desired relationship between these forces. This happens by the wing flexing and altering its shape. As the shape is changed, lift is varied at different points on the wing to achieve the desired flight parameters.

The flight controls primarily affect the pitch-and-roll axis. Since there is no vertical tail plane, minimal or no ability exists to directly control yaw. However, unlike the airplane, the center of gravity experienced by the wing remains constant. Since the weight of the airframe acts through the single point (wing attach point), the range over which the weight may act is fixed at the pendulum arm or length. Even though the weight decreases as fuel is consumed, the weight remains focused at the wing attach point. Most importantly, because the range is fixed, the need to establish a calculated range is not required.

The powered parachute also belongs to the pendulumstyle aircraft. Its airframe center of gravity is fixed at the pendulum attach point. It is more limited in controllability than the WSC aircraft because it lacks an aerodynamic pitch control. Pitch (and lift) control is primarily a function of the power control. Increased power results in increased lift; cruise power amounts to level flight; decreased power causes a descent. Due to this characteristic, the aircraft is basically a one-air speed aircraft. Once again, because the center of gravity is fixed at the attach point to the wing, there can be no center of gravity range.

Roll control on a powered parachute is achieved by changing the shape of the wing. The change is achieved by varying the length of steering lines attached to the outboard trailing edges of the wing. The trailing edge of the parachute is pulled down slightly on one side or the other to create increased drag along that side. This change in drag creates roll and yaw, permitting the aircraft to be steered.

The balloon is controlled by the pilot only in the vertical dimension; this is in contrast to all other aircraft. He or she achieves this control through the use of lift and weight. Wind provides all other movement. The center of gravity of the gondola remains constant beneath the balloon envelope. As in WSC and powered-parachute aircraft, there is no center of gravity limitation.

Aircraft can perform safely and achieve their designed efficiency only when they are operated and maintained in the way their designers intended. This safety and efficiency is determined to a large degree by holding the aircraft’s weight and balance parameters within the limits specified for its design. The remainder of this handbook describes the way in which this is done.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Stability and Balance Control

Balance control refers to the location of the CG of an aircraft. This is of primary importance to aircraft stability, which determines safety in flight.

The CG is the point at which the total weight of the aircraft is assumed to be concentrated, and the CG must be located within specific limits for safe flight. Both lateral and longitudinal balance are important, but the prime concern is longitudinal balance; that is, the location of the CG along the longitudinal or lengthwise axis.

An airplane is designed to have stability that allows it to be trimmed so it will maintain straight and level flight with hands off the controls. Longitudinal stability is maintained by ensuring the CG is slightly ahead of the center of lift. This produces a fixed nose-down force independent of the airspeed. This is balanced by a variable nose-up force, which is produced by a downward aerodynamic force on the horizontal tail surfaces that varies directly with the airspeed. [Figure 1-1]

If a rising air current should cause the nose to pitch up, the airplane will slow down and the downward force on the tail will decrease. The weight concentrated at the CG will pull the nose back down. If the nose should drop in flight, the airspeed will increase and the increased downward tail load will bring the nose back up to level flight.

As long as the CG is maintained within the allowable limits for its weight, the airplane will have adequate longitudinal stability and control. If the CG is too far aft, it will be too near the center of lift and the airplane will be unstable, and difficult to recover from a stall. [Figure 1-2] If the unstable airplane should ever enter a spin, the spin could become flat and recovery would be difficult or impossible.

If the CG is too far forward, the downward tail load will have to be increased to maintain level flight. This increased tail load has the same effect as carrying additional weight; the aircraft will have to fly at a higher angle of attack, and drag will increase.

A more serious problem caused by the CG being too far forward is the lack of sufficient elevator authority. At slow takeoff speeds, the elevator might not produce enough nose-up force to rotate and on landing there may not be enough elevator force to flare the airplane. [Figure 1-3] Both takeoff and landing runs will be lengthened if the CG is too far forward.

The basic aircraft design assumes that lateral symmetry exists. For each item of weight added to the left of the centerline of the aircraft (also known as buttock line zero, or BL-0), there is generally an equal weight at a corresponding location on the right.

The lateral balance can be upset by uneven fuel loading or burnoff. The position of the lateral CG is not normally computed for an airplane, but the pilot must be aware of the adverse effects that will result from a laterally unbalanced condition. [Figure 1-4] This is corrected by using the aileron trim tab until enough fuel has been used from the tank on the heavy side to balance the airplane. The deflected trim tab deflects the aileron to produce additional lift on the heavy side, but it also produces additional drag, and the airplane flies inefficiently.

Helicopters are affected by lateral imbalance more than airplanes. If a helicopter is loaded with heavy occupants and fuel on the same side, it could be out of balance enough to make it unsafe to fly. It is also possible that if external loads are carried in such a position to require large lateral displacement of the cyclic control to maintain level flight, the fore-and-aft cyclic control effectiveness will be limited.

Sweptwing airplanes are more critical due to fuel imbalance because as the fuel is used from the outboard tanks, the CG shifts forward, and as it is used from the inboard tanks, the CG shifts aft. [Figure 1-5] For this reason, fuel-use scheduling in sweptwing airplanes operation is critical.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Weight Changes

One important preflight consideration is the distribution of the load in the aircraft. Loading the aircraft so the gross weight is less than the maximum allowable is not enough. This weight must be distributed to keep the CG within the limits specified in the POH or AFM.

Weight and balance of a helicopter is far more critical than for an airplane. With some helicopters, they may be properly loaded for takeoff, but near the end of a long flight when the fuel tanks are almost empty, the CG may have shifted enough for the helicopter to be out of balance laterally or longitudinally. Before making any long flight, the CG with the fuel available for landing must be checked to ensure it will be within the allowable range.

As an aircraft ages, its weight usually increases due to trash and dirt collecting in hard-to-reach locations, and moisture absorbed in the cabin insulation. This growth in weight is normally small, but it can only be determined by accurately weighing the aircraft.

Repairs and alteration are the major sources of weight changes, and it is the responsibility of the A&P mechanic or repairman making any repair or alteration to know the weight and location of these changes, and to compute the CG and record the new empty weight and EWCG in the aircraft weight and balance record.

The A&P mechanic or repairman conducting an annual or condition inspection must ensure the weight and balance data in the aircraft records is current and accurate. It is the responsibility of the pilot in command to use the most current weight and balance data when operating the aircraft.

Effects of Weight

Most modern aircraft are so designed that if all seats are occupied, all baggage allowed by the baggage compartment is carried, and all of the fuel tanks are full, the aircraft will be grossly overloaded. This type of design requires the pilot to give great consideration to the requirements of the trip. If maximum range is required, occupants or baggage must be left behind, or if the maximum load must be carried, the range, dictated by the amount of fuel on board, must be reduced.

Some of the problems caused by overloading an aircraft

  • the aircraft will need a higher takeoff speed, whichresults in a longer takeoff run.
  • both the rate and angle of climb will be reduced.
  • the service ceiling will be lowered.
  • the cruising speed will be reduced.
  • the cruising range will be shortened.
  • maneuverability will be decreased.
  • a longer landing roll will be required because the landing speed will be higher.
  • excessive loads will be imposed on the structure, especially the landing gear.

The POH or AFM includes tables or charts that give the pilot an indication of the performance expected for any weight. An important part of careful preflight planning includes a check of these charts to determine the aircraft is loaded so the proposed flight can be safely made.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Weight Control

Weight is a major factor in airplane construction and operation, and it demands respect from all pilots and particular diligence by all A&P mechanics and repairmen. Excessive weight reduces the efficiency of an aircraft and the safety margin available if an emergency condition should arise.

When an aircraft is designed, it is made as light as the required structural strength will allow, and the wings or rotors are designed to support the maximum allowable weight. When the weight of an aircraft is increased, the wings or rotors must produce additional lift and the structure must support not only the additional static loads, but also the dynamic loads imposed by flight maneuvers. For example, the wings of a 3,000-pound airplane must support 3,000 pounds in level flight, but when the airplane is turned smoothly and sharply using a bank angle of 60°, the dynamic load requires the wings to support twice this, or 6,000 pounds.

Severe uncoordinated maneuvers or flight into turbulence can impose dynamic loads on the structure great enough 1– to cause failure. In accordance with Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations (14 CFR) part 23, the structure of a normal category airplane must be strong enough to sustain a load factor of 3.8 times its weight. That is, every pound of weight added to an aircraft requires that the structure be strong enough to support an additional 3.8 pounds. An aircraft operated in the utility category must sustain a load factor of 4.4, and acrobatic category aircraft must be strong enough to withstand 6.0 times their weight.

The lift produced by a wing is determined by its airfoil shape, angle of attack, speed through the air, and the air density. When an aircraft takes off from an airport with a high density altitude, it must accelerate to a speed faster than would be required at sea level to produce enough lift to allow takeoff; therefore, a longer takeoff run is necessary. The distance needed may be longer than the available runway. When operating from a high-density altitude airport, the Pilot’s Operating Handbook (POH) or Airplane Flight Manual (AFM) must be consulted to determine the maximum weight allowed for the aircraft under the conditions of altitude, temperature, wind, and runway conditions.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Weight and Balance Control

There are many factors that lead to efficient and safe operation of aircraft. Among these vital factors is proper weight and balance control. The weight and balance system commonly employed among aircraft consists of three equally important elements: the weighing of the aircraft, the maintaining of the weight and balance records, and the proper loading of the aircraft. An inaccuracy in any one of these elements nullifies the purpose of the whole system. The final loading calculations will be meaningless if either the aircraft has been improperly weighed or the records contain an error.

Improper loading cuts down the efficiency of an aircraft from the standpoint of altitude, maneuverability, rate of climb, and speed. It may even be the cause of failure to complete the flight, or for that matter, failure to start the flight. Because of abnormal stresses placed upon the structure of an improperly loaded aircraft, or because of changed flying characteristics of the aircraft, loss of life and destruction of valuable equipment may result.

The responsibility for proper weight and balance control begins with the engineers and designers, and extends to the aircraft mechanics that maintain the aircraft and the pilots who operate them.

Modern aircraft are engineered utilizing state-of-the-art technology and materials to achieve maximum reliability and performance for the intended category. As much care and expertise must be exercised in operating and maintaining these efficient aircraft as was taken in their design and manufacturing.

The designers of an aircraft have set the maximum weight, based on the amount of lift the wings or rotors can provide under the operation conditions for which the aircraft is designed. The structural strength of the aircraft also limits the maximum weight the aircraft can safely carry. The ideal location of the center of gravity (CG) was very carefully determined by the designers, and the maximum deviation allowed from this specific location has been calculated.

The manufacturer provides the aircraft operator with the empty weight of the aircraft and the location of its emptyweight center of gravity (EWCG) at the time the certified aircraft leaves the factory. Amateur-built aircraft must have this information determined and available at the time of certification.

The airframe and powerplant (A&P) mechanic or repairman who maintains the aircraft keeps the weight and balance records current, recording any changes that have been made because of repairs or alterations.

The pilot in command of the aircraft has the responsibility on every flight to know the maximum allowable weight of the aircraft and its CG limits. This allows the pilot to determine on the preflight inspection that the aircraft is loaded in such a way that the CG is within the allowable limits.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008


Before beginning a flight, the pilot in command of an aircraft shall become familiar with all available information concerning that flight. For flights not in the vicinity of an airport, this must include information on available current weather reports and forecasts, fuel requirements, alternatives available if the planned flight cannot be completed, and any known traffic delays of which the pilot in command has been advised by air traffic control (ATC).

The pilot should collect the necessary material well before the flight. An appropriate current sectional chart and charts for areas adjoining the flight route should be among this material if the route of flight is near the border of a chart.

Additional equipment should include a flight computer or electronic calculator, plotter, and any other item appropriate to the particular flight—for example, if a night flight is to be undertaken, carry a flashlight; if a flight is over desert country, carry a supply of water and other necessities.

It may be wise to check the weather before continuing with other aspects of flight planning to see, first of all, if the flight is feasible and, if it is, which route is best.

Study available information about each airport at which a landing is intended. This should include a study of the Notices to Airmen (NOTAMs) and the Airport/Facility Directory. This includes location, elevation, runway and lighting facilities, available services, availability of aeronautical advisory station frequency (UNICOM), types of fuel available (use to decide on refueling stops), AFSS/FSS located on the airport, control tower and ground control frequencies, traffic information, remarks, and other pertinent information. The NOTAMs, issued every 28 days, should be checked for additional information on hazardous conditions or changes that have been made since issuance of the Airport/Facility Directory.

The sectional chart bulletin subsection should be checked for major changes that have occurred since the last publication date of each sectional chart being used. Remember, the chart may be up to 6 months old. The effective date of the chart appears at the top of the front of the chart. The Airport/Facility Directory will generally have the latest information pertaining to such matters and should be used in preference to the information on the back of the chart, if there are differences.

The Airplane Flight Manual or Pilot's Operating Handbook (AFM/POH) should be checked to determine the proper loading of the airplane (weight and balance data). The weight of the usable fuel and drainable oil aboard must be known. Also, check the weight of the passengers, the weight of all baggage to be carried, and the empty weight of the airplane to be sure that the total weight does not exceed the maximum allowable. The distribution of the load must be known to tell if the resulting center of gravity is within limits. Be sure to use the latest weight and balance information in the FAA-approved Airplane Flight Manual or other permanent airplane records, as appropriate, to obtain empty weight and empty weight center-of-gravity information.

Determine the takeoff and landing distances from the appropriate charts, based on the calulated load, elevation of the airport, and temperature; then compare these distances with the amount of runway available. Remember, the heavier the load and the higher the elevation, temperature, or humidity, the longer the takeoff roll and landing roll and the lower the rate of climb.

Check the fuel consumption charts to determine the rate of fuel consumption at the estimated flight altitude and power settings. Calculate the rate of fuel consumption, and then compare it with the estimated time for the flight so that refueling points along the route can be included in the plan.


Advances in navigational radio receivers installed in airplanes, the development of aeronautical charts which show the exact location of ground transmitting stations and their frequencies, along with refined cockpit instrumentation make it possible for pilots to navigate with precision to almost any point desired. Although precision in navigation is obtainable through the proper use of this equipment, beginning pilots should use this equipment to supplement navigation by visual reference to the ground (pilotage). This method provides the pilot with an effective safeguard against disorientation in the event of radio malfunction.

There are four radio navigation systems available for use for VFR navigation. These are:

VHF Omnidirectional Range (VOR)
Nondirectional Radiobeacon (NDB)
Long Range Navigation (LORAN-C)
Global Positioning System (GPS)

The VOR system is present in three slightly different navigation aids (NAVAIDs): VOR, VOR/DME, and VORTAC. By itself it is known as a VOR, and it provides magnetic bearing information to and from the station. When DME is also installed with a VOR, the NAVAID is referred to as a VOR/DME. When military tactical air navigation (TACAN) equipment is installed with a VOR, the NAVAID is known as a VORTAC. DME is always an integral part of a VORTAC. Regardless of the type of NAVAID utilized (VOR, VOR/DME or VORTAC), the VOR indicator behaves the same. Unless otherwise noted, in this section, VOR, VOR/DME and VORTAC NAVAIDs will all be referred to hereafter as VORs.

The word "omni" means all, and an omnidirectional range is a VHF radio transmitting ground station that projects straight line courses (radials) from the station in all directions. From a top view, it can be visualized as being similar to the spokes from the hub of a wheel.

The distance VOR radials are projected depends upon the power output of the transmitter. The course or radials projected from the station are referenced to magnetic north. Therefore, a radial is defined as a line of magnetic bearing extending outward from the VOR station. Radials are identified by numbers beginning with 001, which is 1° east of magnetic north, and progress in sequence through all the degrees of a circle until reaching 360. To aid in orientation, a compass rose reference to magnetic north is superimposed on aeronautical charts at the station location.

VOR ground stations transmit within a VHF frequency band of 108.0 – 117.95 MHz. Because the equipment is VHF, the signals transmitted are subject to line-of-sight restrictions. Therefore, its range varies in direct proportion to the altitude of receiving equipment. Generally, the reception range of the signals at an altitude of 1,000 feet above ground level (AGL) is about 40 to 45 miles. This distance increases with altitude.

VORs and VORTACs are classed according to operational use. There are three classes:

T (Terminal)
L (Low altitude)
H (High altitude)


Though there are various kinds of pressure, this discussion is mainly concerned with atmospheric pressure. It is one of the basic factors in weather changes, helps to lift the airplane, and actuates some of the important flight instruments in the airplane. These instruments are the altimeter, the airspeed indicator, the rate-of-climb indicator, and the manifold pressure gauge.

Though air is very light, it has mass and is affected by the attraction of gravity. Therefore, like any other substance, it has weight, and because of its weight, it has force. Since it is a fluid substance, this force is exerted equally in all directions, and its effect on bodies within the air is called pressure. Under standard conditions at sea level, the average pressure exerted on the human body by the weight of the atmosphere around it is approximately 14.7 lb./in. The density of air has significant effects on the airplane's capability. As air becomes less dense, it reduces (1) power because the engine takes in less air, (2) thrust because the propeller is less efficient in thin air, and (3) lift because the thin air exerts less force on the airfoils.

Since air is a gas, it can be compressed or expanded. When air is compressed, a greater amount of air can occupy a given volume. Conversely, when pressure on a given volume of air is decreased, the air expands and occupies a greater space. That is, the original column of air at a lower pressure contains a smaller mass of air. In other words, the density is decreased. In fact, density is directly proportional to pressure. If the pressure is doubled, the density is doubled, and if the pressure is lowered, so is the density. This statement is true, only at a constant temperature.