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Balance, Stability, and Center of Gravity

in weight and balance

Balance refers to the location of the CG of an aircraft, and is important to stability and safety in flight. The CG is a point at which the aircraft would balance if it were suspended at that point.


The primary concern in balancing an aircraft is the fore and aft location of the CG along the longitudinal axis. The CG is not necessarily a fixed point; its location depends on the distribution of weight in the aircraft. As variable load items are shifted or expended, there is a resultant shift in CG location. The distance between the forward and back limits for the position of the center for gravity or CG range is certified for an aircraft by the manufacturer. The pilot should realize that if the CG is displaced too far forward on the longitudinal axis, a nose-heavy condition will result. Conversely, if the CG is displaced too far aft on the longitudinal axis, a tail heavy condition results. It is possible that the pilot could not control the aircraft if the CG location produced an unstable condition. [Figure 9-1]

Figure 9-1. Lateral and longitudinal unbalance.

Figure 9-1. Lateral and longitudinal unbalance.

Location of the CG with reference to the lateral axis is also important. For each item of weight existing to the left of the fuselage centerline, there is an equal weight existing at a corresponding location on the right. This may be upset by unbalanced lateral loading. The position of the lateral CG is not computed in all aircraft, but the pilot must be aware that adverse effects arise as a result of a laterally unbalanced condition. In an airplane, lateral unbalance occurs if the fuel load is mismanaged by supplying the engine(s) unevenly from tanks on one side of the airplane. The pilot can compensate for the resulting wing-heavy condition by adjusting the trim or by holding a constant control pressure. This action places the aircraft controls in an out-of-streamline condition, increases drag, and results in decreased operating efficiency. Since lateral balance is addressed when needed in the aircraft flight manual (AFM) and longitudinal balance is more critical, further reference to balance in this handbook means longitudinal location of the CG. A single pilot operating a small rotorcraft, may require additional weight to keep the aircraft laterally balanced.

Flying an aircraft that is out of balance can produce increased pilot fatigue with obvious effects on the safety and efficiency of flight. The pilot’s natural correction for longitudinal unbalance is a change of trim to remove the excessive control pressure. Excessive trim, however, has the effect of reducing not only aerodynamic efficiency but also primary control travel distance in the direction the trim is applied.

41K-VXcrOjL._SX381_BO1,204,203,200_Learn more about Aircraft Weight and Balance with the FAA Aircraft Weight and Balance Handbook. Weight and balance is one of the most important factors affecting safety of flight. An overweight aircraft, or one whose center of gravity is outside the allowable limits, is inefficient and dangerous to fly.

 

 

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