Plane & Pilot
Monday, October 1, 2007

Get The Balance Right

If you think weight and balance are boring and unimportant, you need to read the following

It was 1985, and I was refueling a Cessna 425 Conquest I at Tenerife in the Canary Islands on my way to Johannesburg, South Africa. I’d instructed the fueler to fill the wing tanks first, then begin topping the three 110-gallon internal ferry tanks starting with the front tank. I turned away to fill out the necessary paperwork, heard the pump running for a few minutes and as I finished the fuel request, heard a sickening crunch behind me.
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Many pilots, this one included, feel the Piper Cherokee Six and Saratoga models fly better with a more aft CG. Like the Malibu, the Six/Saratoga offers a nose baggage compartment to help balance the load. Piper is the only manufacturer of piston singles I can think of that provides such a hedge.

If there’s a message here somewhere, it may be that violating either weight or balance limits is a bad idea. Flying overweight can compromise all parameters of performance, and operating the aircraft outside the balance point can result in control problems that may be impossible to counter.

We like to think of flying as a relatively safe occupation/pastime, and it is, but only if you live by the limitations that some very smart folks have learned by the best- or perhaps worst-possible method: trial and error.


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