Effects of Weight on Flight Performance Effects of Weight on Flight Performance

   The takeoff/climb and landing performance of an airplane are determined on the basis of its maximum allowable takeoff and landing weights. A heavier gross weight will result in a longer takeoff run and shallower climb, and a faster touchdown speed and longer landing roll. Even a minor overload may make it impossible for the airplane to clear an obstacle which normally would not have been seriously considered during takeoffs under more favorable conditions.

   The detrimental effects of overloading on performance are not limited to the immediate hazards involving takeoffs and landings. Overloading has an adverse effect on all climb and cruise performance which leads to overheating during climbs, added wear on engine parts, increased fuel consumption, slower cruising speeds, and reduced range.

   The manufacturers of modern airplanes furnish weight and balance data with each airplane produced. Generally, this information may be found in the FAA approved Airplane Flight Manual or pilot's operating handbook. With the advancements in airplane design and construction in recent years has come the development of "easy to read charts" for determining weight and balance data. Increased performance and load carrying capability of these airplanes require strict adherence to the operating limitations prescribed by the manufacturer. Deviations from the recommendations can result in structural damage or even complete failure of the airplane's structure. Even if an airplane is loaded well within the maximum weight limitations, it is imperative that weight distribution be within the limits of center of gravity location. The preceding brief study of aerodynamics and load factors points out the reasons for this precaution. The following discussion is background information into some of the reasons why weight and balance conditions are important to the safe flight of an airplane.

   The pilot is often completely unaware of the weight and balance limitations of the airplane being flown and of the reasons for these limitations. In some airplanes it is not possible to fill all seats, baggage compartments, and fuel tanks, and still remain within approved weight or balance limits. As an example, in several popular four place airplanes the fuel tanks may not be filled to capacity when four occupants and their baggage are carried. In a certain two place airplane, no baggage may be carried in the compartment aft of the seats when spins are to be practiced.