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What Does "Heavy" Mean?  
User currently offlineDfw From United States of America, joined Sep 2010, 0 posts, RR: 0
Posted (17 years 1 week 2 days 17 hours ago) and read 14670 times:

I have been flying for years, I am a business traveller and usually fly twice a week, but the one question I have never bothered to ask is, what do they mean when they say. "flight 001 heavy cleared to land?". I have noticed the term used on DAL, AA, and BA 767,777 flights here at DFW so one would assume it has something to do with the size of the aircraft. (?) Any help would be appreciated as always. Cheers.


14 replies: All unread, jump to last
User currently offlineMD-11 From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 1, posted (17 years 1 week 2 days 16 hours ago) and read 14670 times:

I believe there's a certain weight limit, and if a plane weighs more then that, then it will be called "heavy". I'm just not sure what that weight is.

As far as I know, the smallest plane that could be called a heavy is the 757, but I have never personally heard a 757 being called a heavy.

User currently offlineSR_Girl From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 2, posted (17 years 1 week 2 days 12 hours ago) and read 14670 times:

Hi everyone..

I'm totally new on here, but I just thought I should answer your question. "Heavy" is normally used to describe wide-body jets, or so I was meant to believe, I have never heard of aircraft being regarded to as "Heavy" due to their weight... Hope that helps. Till next time!

User currently offline767-400ER From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 3, posted (17 years 1 week 2 days 11 hours ago) and read 14670 times:

What I think it means that the plane has enough fuel on board to make an international flight, even though if it just flying a domestic flight.


User currently offlineL-188 From United States of America, joined Jul 1999, 30403 posts, RR: 57
Reply 4, posted (17 years 1 week 2 days 6 hours ago) and read 14670 times:

It refers to the weight of the aircraft. They include it in their callsigns to designate the larger seperations required between themselves and other traffic.

I can't remember what the exact number is but 300,000 LBS sticks in my head for some reason. Can somebody out there correct or confirm??

"Heavy" aircraft have larger clearance seperations required because of the stronger votexes and wake turbulence generated by the aircraft. There was a big stink about the 757 a while back because it's wing design generates a strong votex but still its weight isn't enough to classify it as a heavy. I do belive that they did adopt a wider seperation for that aircraft.

User currently offlineFred From United States of America, joined Apr 2003, 11 posts, RR: 0
Reply 5, posted (17 years 1 week 2 days 6 hours ago) and read 14670 times:

The weight is 220,000 pounds. I think that it is a waste of time saying it all the time as it is on your card. It is not required to tell them at all.

User currently offlinePurdue Cadet From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 6, posted (17 years 1 week 2 days 2 hours ago) and read 14671 times:

One more note - As I understand it, the heavy designation is based on Max Gross weight, meaning that a heavy aircraft is considered heavy regardless of it's weight on a particular flight, as long as it is capable of taking off over a certain weight (220,000 lbs??) If 220,000 is the deciding weight, 757 is heavy, due to the fact that it's max. t/o weight (as listed on AA's website) is 240,000 lbs.

User currently offlineN4KHGirl From United States of America, joined May 1999, 297 posts, RR: 3
Reply 7, posted (17 years 1 week 2 days 2 hours ago) and read 14670 times:

I thought heavy was used to describe a widebody cargo plane

User currently offlineMirage From Portugal, joined May 1999, 3125 posts, RR: 13
Reply 8, posted (17 years 1 week 2 days 1 hour ago) and read 14670 times:

The 757 is not "heavy" for ATC purposes. In addition, there are many wide body aircrafts that don't use the designation "heavy" on ATC communications.
It seems it's not very clear the criterion to use this designation or if it's clear, then, there are many pilots who forgot to use it.

Luis, Faro, Portugal

User currently offlinePurdue Cadet From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 9, posted (17 years 1 week 2 days ago) and read 14673 times:

I just spoke to a briefer at the Terre Haute Flight Service Station, and after looking it up in a book she gave me the following definition of a "heavy" aircraft: "An aircraft that is capable of operating at a weight of 255,000 pounds, whether or not it is doing so on a particular flight." Therefore, the 757 is not a heavy, because even it's max. taxi weight is <255,000 lbs, but those aircraft that are heavy are always heavy, regardless of load. i.e. AA's 777 would have been identified as heavy when it was doing touch and goes in Fort Worth for pilot training before entering service, despite the fact that it probably had relatively little fuel and only a few people on board.

User currently offlineUPSPilot From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 10, posted (17 years 1 week 1 day 22 hours ago) and read 14670 times:

The maximum gross takeoff weight on a 757-200pf is 255,000 lbs. FYI
There was a post earlier about a heavy designation only going to wide body aircraft. Why is our DC-8 71 and 73's designated as a heavy jet then? It is based upon weight. Would you classify a DC-8 as a wide body?

User currently offlineDash8 From New Zealand, joined Aug 2005, 16 posts, RR: 0
Reply 11, posted (17 years 1 week 19 hours ago) and read 14670 times:

Well just to throw in my two cents. In our BOM it states that a heavy is any plane with a MTOW of 130,000 kg (300.000lbs). No matter how small the plane is. Also it is said the although the 75 is not a heavy it should be considerd as such by both ATC and flight crew.
Also the term "heavy" isn't required for every transmission, only the initial call to the appropriate ATS unit.


User currently offlineJoe From United Kingdom, joined Oct 2005, 0 posts, RR: 0
Reply 12, posted (17 years 1 week ago) and read 14671 times:

Two more cents... I beleive the separation requirements for heavy jets are greater that those of "normal" aircraft. One more reason to indicate it in the call. One more thing, KC-135 tankers (B707) are considered heavy, although narrow body.

User currently offlineArkan From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 13, posted (17 years 6 days ago) and read 14671 times:

I read once that a heavy aircraft was any aircraft with a rock band on board or an aircraft that was cool to look at.

In this context a russian aircraft is seldom heavy since they are not cool to look at. Also, they almost never have a rock band on board.


User currently offlineHmmmm... From Canada, joined May 1999, 2114 posts, RR: 5
Reply 14, posted (17 years 4 days 22 hours ago) and read 14672 times:

According to Aviation Week online, the 255,000 lbs figure is relevant only to the term "large" for the purpose of aircraft traffic separation. Larger aircraft need more separation from smaller ones due to the problem of wake turbulence. The term "heavy" refers to any aircraft which has a MGTOW of 300,000 lbs or more.

An optimist robs himself of the joy of being pleasantly surprised
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