How Do You Determine Your Weight and Balance?

2 min read
Oct 28, 2021

Q: I’m a student pilot learning weight and balance calculations, and I hate it! Should I just give up and quit?



Kids these days! Orville and Wilbur gave us the gift of flight, and you want to throw it away just because one little part doesn’t scratch the happy part of your brain? Well, I guess I have to convince you that calculating weight and balance is not as boring as you think it is.

Let's start at the beginning. It’s true: Learning to do weight and balance calculations as a student pilot is about as dry as my Aunt Doris’s turkey in the desert. But don’t let that, or anything else, divert you from your flight training and your final destination of earning your pilot’s certificate.

There are at least three things you need to remember about weight and balance to ensure that you are the best pilot in command (PIC) you can be...and half the PIC that I am already.

  1. Safety
    It’s kind of obvious, but remember that if you do your calculations correctly, you won’t damage the plane, or yourself, due to a lack of attention paid to the weight and placement of the people, baggage, and fuel you’re loading into your airplane.

  2. Technology
    Bear in mind that you’re not always going to have to use a grainy photocopied chart, a straightedge, and a slide rule to determine if you’re within the airplane’s operating envelope. Sure, you’ll need to prove to the Federal Aviation Administration that you can use a chart to determine weight and balance when earning your private pilot certificate, but for all other times, you can use any number of apps on your phone or tablet computer to quickly and painlessly make your calculations. 

  3. Life Decisions
    Finally, and most importantly, precise weight and balance calculations help you make important life decisions. For example, if I were to climb into my fully-fueled Skyhawk after enjoying the breakfast buffet at Sizzler, then add my custom Ping golf clubs and my Ping Pioneer golf bag, I’d be just a bit over the total weight limit, which would make flying both illegal and dangerous. So, I’d have to leave my beautiful golf bag behind and instead opt for a more.... slight bit of gear.

That’s a serious issue.

But, because I know how to perform weight and balance calculations, I’m able to determine how much weight I need to offload so that my trusty golf bag can accompany me on my frequent outings to Pebble Beach. After looking at this payload conundrum, I determined that I could either take less fuel or less Captain Harv.

And since less fuel is less than ideal, I’m pleased to report that after sticking to a strict diet and exercise regimen specifically designed for my needs and personality, I’m 30 pounds lighter and can fly everything I want to the links.

Nothing tastes as good as flying feels — not even all-you-can-eat bacon.


Capt. Harv is the greatest pilot to ever live...if you ask him. When he isn't flying circles around you without ever leaving straight-and-level flight, he's straightening out your questions about aviation on the worldwide web. Follow him on Twitter and YouTube to become a better pilot.