As the number of small plane accidents continues to increase, it’s important to highlight that one of the factors playing a roll in these accidents includes the overloading of these planes. Adherence to weight and balance limits of an aircraft is a critical factor to flight safety, according to the FAA. Just a few months ago the National Transportation Safety Board investigators were investigating and trying to determine whether the small plane that went down in a fiery crash on April 10, 2018, in Arizona was overloaded and not equipped to carry six people.
All six people aboard the Piper PA-24 Comanche died when the plane went down around 8:45 p.m. on the TPC Scottsdale Champions Golf Course shortly after takeoff from Scottsdale Airport.
How Does Excessive Weight Affect Small Airplane Performance?
Excessive weight reduces flight performance of an airplane in almost every respect, Feldman Shepherd aviation attorney G. Scott Vezina, a pilot for 30 years said. An overloaded small plane may not be able to leave the ground, or if it does become airborne, it may exhibit unexpected and unusually poor performance characteristics.
The most important performance deficiencies of an overloaded airplane are:
The force of gravity continually attempts to pull an airplane down toward earth, while the force of lift is the only force that counteracts weight and sustains the airplane in flight, Vezina said. Consequently, any item aboard the plane that increases the total weight is undesirable from a performance standpoint, Vezina said.
“Excessive weight in itself reduces the safety margins available to the pilot, and becomes even more hazardous when other performance-reducing factors are combined with overweight,” Vezina said. “The pilot must also consider the consequences of an overweight airplane if an emergency condition arises. If an engine fails on takeoff or airframe ice forms at low altitude, it is usually too late to reduce the airplane’s weight to keep it in the air.”
How Can a Pilot Avoid Excessive Weight?
The pilot must be knowledgeable in the effect of weight on the performance on the particular airplane being flown, Vezina said. Preflight planning should include a check of performance charts to determine if the airplane’s weight may contribute to hazardous operations.
In order to fly safely, it is imperative that pilots of small aircraft ascertain the weights of all passengers and cargo via a scale or by asking passengers for their current weight and stay within the parameters of the airplane’s published weight and balance limits, Vezina said.
Mr. Vezina has litigated numerous aircraft crashes throughout the world including:
To read more about the top leading causes of General Aviation accidents click here
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