It might be advantageous at this point to review and discuss some of the basic principles of weight and balance determination. The following method of computation can be applied to any object or vehicle for which weight and balance information is essential.

By determining the weight of the empty aircraft and adding the weight of everything loaded on the aircraft, a total weight can be determined—a simple concept. A greater problem, particularly if the basic principles of weight and balance are not understood, is distributing this weight in such a manner that the entire mass of the loaded aircraft is balanced around a point (CG) that must be located within specified limits.

The point at which an aircraft balances can be determined by locating the CG, which is, as stated in the definitions of terms, the imaginary point at which all the weight is concentrated. To provide the necessary balance between longitudinal stability and elevator control, the CG is usually located slightly forward of the center of lift. This loading condition causes a nose-down tendency in flight, which is desirable during flight at a high AOA and slow speeds.

As mentioned earlier, a safe zone within which the balance point (CG) must fall is called the CG range. The extremities of the range are called the forward CG limits and aft CG limits. These limits are usually specified in inches, along the longitudinal axis of the airplane, measured from a reference point called a datum reference. The datum is an arbitrary point, established by aircraft designers, which may vary in location between different aircraft. [Figure 9-2]

The distance from the datum to any component part or any object loaded on the aircraft, is called the arm. When the object or component is located aft of the datum, it is measured in positive inches; if located forward of the datum, it is measured as negative inches, or minus inches. The location of the object or part is often referred to as the station. If the weight of any object or component is multiplied by the distance from the datum (arm), the product is the moment. The moment is the measurement of the gravitational force that causes a tendency of the weight to rotate about a point or axis and is expressed in inch-pounds (in-lb).

To illustrate, assume a weight of 50 pounds is placed on the board at a station or point 100 inches from the datum. The downward force of the weight can be determined by multiplying 50 pounds by 100 inches, which produces a moment of 5,000 in-lb. [Figure 9-3]

To establish a balance, a total of 5,000 in-lb must be applied to the other end of the board. Any combination of weight and distance which, when multiplied, produces a 5,000 in-lb moment will balance the board. For example (illustrated in Figure 9-4), if a 100-pound weight is placed at a point (station) 25 inches from the datum, and another 50-pound weight is placed at a point (station) 50 inches from the datum, the sum of the product of the two weights and their distances will total a moment of 5,000 in-lb, which will balance the board.

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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