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Lecture 2: Composition of Aircraft Weight


All aircraft have a specified maximum mass. This limit must be respected, whether the aircraft is a micro-light or a Boeing 747. Attempting to fly an overloaded/overweight aircraft can cause various effects.

To ensure aircraft can fly safely with best performance, limitation are set by engineer. Maximum Take-Off Weight (MTOW): The maximum permissible weight to conduct a takeoff. Maximum Landing Weight (MLW): The maximum permissible weight to conduct a landing. Maximum Zero Fuel Weight (MZFW): The maximum weight of an aircraft which its structural limits would allow.

Maximum Takeoff Weight (MTOW)

MTOW of an aircraft is the maximum weight at which the pilot of the aircraft is allowed to attempt to take off. It is the heaviest weight which should be limited in order to ensure the aircraft can fly safely during take-off. At its MTOW an aircraft complies with all the structural and performance requirements. The MTOW of an aircraft is fixed. It does not vary with altitude or air temperature or the length of the runway to be used for takeoff or landing. MTOW is usually specified in units of kilograms or pounds.

Maximum Landing Weight (MLW)

The maximum permissible weight to conduct a landing.

Maximum Zero-Fuel Weight (MZFW)

The Zero Fuel Weight (ZFW) of an airplane is the total weight of the airplane and all its contents, minus the total weight of the fuel on board. When an airplane is being loaded with crew, passengers, baggage and freight it is most important to ensure that the Zero Fuel Weight does not exceed the Maximum Zero Fuel Weight. Designers of airplanes can optimize the MTOW and prevent overloading in the fuselage by specifying a MZFW. This is usually done for large airplanes. Most small airplanes do not have a MZFW specified among their limitations.

The Importance to set up weight limitations (MTOW, MLW, MZFW)

To avoid over-stressing of aircraft structures. To ensure the aircraft structure is capable of withstanding all the loads likely to be imposed on it during maneuvering by the pilot, and gusts experienced in turbulent atmospheric conditions. To ensure the aircraft is capable of climbing at an adequate gradient with all its engines operating; and also with one engine inoperative.

All Up Weight (AUW)

All Up Weight (AUW): The total weight of the aircraft including of all items at any specific time. During take off All up weight (AUW) must not exceed the Maximum Take Off Weight (MTOW)

For Take-Off: AUW/TOW MTOW

During landing All up weight (AUW) must not exceed the Maximum Landing Weight (MLW)

For Landing: AUW/LW MLW

Total ZFW also must not exceed the Maximum Zero Fuel Weight (MZFW). ZFW MZFW

All Up Weight (AUW)


Where, DOW = Dry Operating Weight PAYLOAD = Passengers & Cargo FUEL = Flight Fuel + Reserve Fuel

Dry Operating Weight (DOW) DOW Basic Weight Crew & Baggage
Dry Operating Weight (DOW) Also known as Aircraft Prepared for Service (APS). It is the basic weight plus crew plus crews baggage's.

Basic Weight It consists of Empty Weight plus Basic Equipment Weight.

Empty Weight Weight of airframe, engines and standard structures. Basic Equipment Weight Weight of common installations inside the airplane.

The weight of all persons and items of load carried in an aircraft for which a fare or charge is being paid. PAYLOAD = Passengers & Cargo

FUEL = Flight Fuel + Reserve Fuel Flight Fuel = It is the weight of the fuel required for and burnt during a flight. With the given flight distance and mean airspeed , Flight Fuel can be calculated as follows: Flight Fuel = Fuel Flow Flight Time Where, Flight time= Distance / Mean Airspeed

All Up Weight (AUW)

However, AUW is not same during Take-off and landing During TAKE-OFF:
AUW during Take-Off=DOW + PAYLOAD + (Flight Fuel + Reserve Fuel)

During LANDING: AUW during Landing =DOW + PAYLOAD + Reserve Fuel Note that, as a flight progresses , flight fuel is consumed and finished.

Normally, there are only one way on how to ensure aircraft total weight (AUW) either at takeoff or landing is within limitations. The only way is to reduce the number of passengers, the amount of baggage or cargo (PAYLOAD) or the fuel load.

Payload Calculation
Based on above equation, to ensure AUW MTOW, MLW,MZFW Take-off consideration : replace AUW as MTOW, and re-arrange equation as: Payload = MTOW-DOW- (Flight Fuel+ Reserve Fuel) Landing consideration : replace AUW as MLW, and re-arrange equation as: Payload = MLW-DOW- Reserve Fuel Zero Fuel consideration : replace AUW as MZFW, and re-arrange equation as: Payload = MZFW-DOW Based on the calculation, the lowest result is the maximum payload that the aircraft is able to carry for a flight.

Example 1
Aircraft fly from M to N, given: MTOW = 6180kg MLW = 5740kg MZFW = 5395kg DOW=4400kg Flight Fuel = 767kg Reserve Fuel=250kg Calculate maximum payload that the aircraft is able to carry. Answer: 961kg

Example 2
Aircraft fly from A to B, given: MTOW = 41,300kg, MLW = 32,250kg DOW = 23,000kg Fuel Flow= 2000kg/hr, Mean Speed=455knots, Flight Distance=2150nm Reserve Fuel=2500kg Calculate maximum payload that the aircraft is able to carry. (**Assume MZFW is not specified) Solution: Step 1: Calculate Flight time & Flight Fuel Step 2: Find the maximum payload by ensuring total weight MTOW, MLW Answer: 6350kg


Aircrafts manufacturers attempt to make the airplane as light as possible together with higher strength and enough safety. Either flight operators or pilot of an airplane should always be aware of the consequences of overloading. An overloaded airplane MAY NOT BE ABLE TO LEAVE THE GROUND, or if it does become airborne, IT MAY FACE UNEXPECTED OR POOR PERFORMANCE DURING FLIGHT. The initial indication of poor performance usually takes place during takeoff.

MK Airlines Flight 1602, a 747-200F, crashed while attempting to take off from Halifax Stanfield International Airport on 14 October 2004. The aircraft's take-off weight had been incorrectly calculated, and the plane was only briefly airborne before impacting an Earth berm at the end of the runway. The seven-member crew was killed.

9. Aircraft Structure Damage

1. Higher Takeoff Speed.

2. Longer Takeoff Run

8. Reduced Landing Performance


3. Reduced Climb Performance 4. Lower maximum altitude (ceiling).

6.Shorter Range 7.Less Maneuver

5. Lower Cruising Speeds

Effects Of overloaded airplane

1. Increased Take-off Speed Because more lift is necessary to counter the additional weight, higher speed is necessary to create sufficient lift to attain flight. 2. Longer Take-off Run The increase in necessary speed for takeoff and slower acceleration due to increased weight translates to more runway required to accelerate the airplane to takeoff speed.

Effects Of overloaded airplane

3. Reduced Climb Angle Increases in weight must be countered by additional lift. Lift that is otherwise available for climb performance now must support the additional weight. The airplane's capability to out climb obstructions near the airport may be compromised. 4. Lower Ceilings (ceiling=maximum altitude can reach by aircraft) An increase in weight results in a reduction in absolute ceiling and, in severe situations where there is high terrain, it may be impossible for the airplane to climb above the terrain.

Effects Of overloaded airplane

5. Lower Cruising Speeds Production of additional lift to counteract greater weight results in an increase in drag. This increased drag reduces the speed at which the airplane travels. 6. Shorter Range Because cruising speeds are reduced by overloading the airplane, the range of the airplane is also reduced. On a trip that calls for most of the airplane's normal range, the destination may prove to be unreachable.

Effects Of overloaded airplane

7.Less Maneuverability The heavier the airplane is, the less maneuverable it becomes. This is so because the force necessary to change the speed or direction of an object in motion increases with the mass of the object. Maneuverability = aircraft ability to turn away from its previous path.

Effects Of overloaded airplane

8. Reduced Landing Performance Overloaded can cause higher approach and landing speeds are necessary. Higher landing speed thus lead to greater landing distance. 9. Aircraft Structure Damage Although the primary concern of an overloaded airplane is its effect on aerodynamic performance, a secondary concern is its effect on structural components, such as landing gears.