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Effect of Load Distribution (Part Two)

in Aerodynamics

The rearward CG limit of an aircraft is determined largely by considerations of stability. The original airworthiness requirements for a type certificate specify that an aircraft in flight at a certain speed dampens out vertical displacement of the nose within a certain number of oscillations. An aircraft loaded too far rearward may not do this. Instead, when the nose is momentarily pulled up, it may alternately climb and dive becoming steeper with each oscillation. This instability is not only uncomfortable to occupants, but it could even become dangerous by making the aircraft unmanageable under certain conditions.

The recovery from a stall in any aircraft becomes progressively more difficult as its CG moves aft. This is particularly important in spin recovery, as there is a point in rearward loading of any aircraft at which a “flat” spin develops. A flat spin is one in which centrifugal force, acting through a CG located well to the rear, pulls the tail of the aircraft out away from the axis of the spin, making it impossible to get the nose down and recover.

An aircraft loaded to the rear limit of its permissible CG range handles differently in turns and stall maneuvers and has different landing characteristics than when it is loaded near the forward limit.

The forward CG limit is determined by a number of considerations. As a safety measure, it is required that the trimming device, whether tab or adjustable stabilizer, be capable of holding the aircraft in a normal glide with the power off. A conventional aircraft must be capable of a full stall, power-off landing in order to ensure minimum landing speed in emergencies. A tailwheel-type aircraft loaded excessively nose-heavy is difficult to taxi, particularly in high winds. It can be nosed over easily by use of the brakes, and it is difficult to land without bouncing since it tends to pitch down on the wheels as it is slowed down and flared for landing. Steering difficulties on the ground may occur in nosewheel-type aircraft, particularly during the landing roll and takeoff. To summarize the effects of load distribution:

  • The CG position influences the lift and AOA of the wing, the amount and direction of force on the tail, and the degree of deflection of the stabilizer needed to supply the proper tail force for equilibrium. The latter is very important because of its relationship to elevator control force.
  • The aircraft stalls at a higher speed with a forward CG location. This is because the stalling AOA is reached at a higher speed due to increased wing loading.
  • Higher elevator control forces normally exist with a forward CG location due to the increased stabilizer deflection required to balance the aircraft.
  • The aircraft cruises faster with an aft CG location because of reduced drag. The drag is reduced because a smaller AOA and less downward deflection of the stabilizer are required to support the aircraft and overcome the nose-down pitching tendency.
  • The aircraft becomes less stable as the CG is moved rearward. This is because when the CG is moved rearward it causes an increase in the AOA. Therefore, the wing contribution to the aircraft’s stability is now decreased, while the tail contribution is still stabilizing. When the point is reached that the wing and tail contributions balance, then neutral stability exists. Any CG movement further aft results in an unstable aircraft.
  • A forward CG location increases the need for greater back elevator pressure. The elevator may no longer be able to oppose any increase in nose-down pitching. Adequate elevator control is needed to control the aircraft throughout the airspeed range down to the stall.

A detailed discussion and additional information relating to weight and balance can be found in Chapter 9, Weight and Balance.

51UFncHi9pL._SX390_BO1,204,203,200_Learn more about airplane aerodynamics with the Illustrated Guide to Aerodynamics. This unique introductory guide, which sold more than 20,000 copies in its first edition, proves that the principles of flight can be easy to understand, even fascinating, to pilots and technicians who want to know how and why an aircraft behaves as it does.


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