Before an aircraft can be weighed and reliable readings obtained, it must be in a level flight attitude. One method that can be used to check for a level condition is to use a spirit level, sometimes thought of as a carpenter’s level, by placing it on or against a specified place on the aircraft. Spirit levels consist of a vial full of liquid, except for a small air bubble. When the air bubble is centered between the two black lines, a level condition is indicated.
In Figure 4-16, a spirit level is being used on a Mooney M20 to check for a flight level attitude. By looking in the Type Certificate Data Sheet, it is determined that the leveling means is two screws on the left side of the airplane fuselage, in line with the trailing edge of the wing.
A plumb bob is a heavy metal object, cylinder or cone shape, with a sharp point at one end and a string attached to the other end. If the string is attached to a given point on an aircraft, and the plumb bob is allowed to hang down so the tip just touches the ground, the point where the tip touches will be perpendicular to where the string is attached. An example of the use of a plumb bob would be measuring the distance from an aircraft’s datum to the center of the main landing gear axle. If the leading edge of the wing was the datum, a plumb bob could be dropped from the leading edge and a chalk mark made on the hangar floor. The plumb bob could also be dropped from the center of the axle on the main landing gear, and a chalk mark made on the floor. With a tape measure, the distance between the two chalk marks could be determined, and the arm for the main landing gear would be known. Plumb bobs can also be used to level an aircraft, described on page 4-27 of the Helicopter Weight and Balance section of this chapter. Figure 4-17 shows a plumb bob being dropped from the leading edge of an aircraft wing.
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