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Taking Off Overweight  
User currently offline762er From United States of America, joined Feb 2001, 542 posts, RR: 1
Posted (9 years 3 months 6 days 17 hours ago) and read 14774 times:

For GA pilots out there operating single-engine props, do you ever takeoff overweight? Most (if not all) single-engine 4 place airplanes cannot legally takeoff carrying full fuel and four adults + bags. However, I know many pilots who do so anyway, i.e. takeoff 100-300 lbs overweight. They've all said while it's not legal, they feel perfectly safe doing it so long as they're well within the balance/center-of-gravity limitations. For example the Cirrus Sr22 is an overpowered airplane capable of 1400 fpm climb rates at gross weight at Sea level. My buddy, an Sr22 owner, routinely takesoff 200 lbs over gross (3600 lbs in the case of the sr22) and says he's never had a problem so long as he maintains slightly higher airspeeds in the climb. THe only difference he sees is a slightly decreased vertical speed and slightly higher Vr. What are the factors that go into setting the Gross weight of an airplane? At 3600 lbs the SR22 still climbs at over 1000 fpm which is still pretty impressive relative to most high performance singles. Thoughts, comments, personal experiences? Please share!

33 replies: All unread, showing first 25:
 
User currently offlineMrChips From Canada, joined Mar 2005, 932 posts, RR: 0
Reply 1, posted (9 years 3 months 6 days 17 hours ago) and read 14777 times:

Three words:

NEVER, NEVER and NEVER!

Taking off overweight is so stupid that I cannot find words to express my disgust. Think of it this way - the manufacturer saw a very good reason to limit MTOW, be it a performance issue, a structural issue, whatever...they have rigorously tested the aircraft, and they know its performance limitations better than anyone else. If they say that you cannot take off above 3100 lb., then don't do it, because one day, it's gonna come around and bite you in the ass, especially in any light aircraft.

Take your example, for instance. A 200 lb. overload decreased climb performance by almost 1/3, and probably decreased takeoff performance by a like amount. That's an awful lot of performance you are sacrificing. Also, in the case of the Cirrus, how does the CAPS perform over gross weight? You just might find that it doesn't work well, or at all (its not just a "last ditch" system, the aircraft was allowed to bypass spin testing because of the CAPS).

Since the aircraft would not be operating under the conditions of its Airworthiness Certificate, this in turn invalidates every other document pertaining to the aircraft, including it's insurance policy...one of the major conditions of any insurance policy is that the aircraft be operated within the manufacturer's limits. If you are overgross and crash for some reason, you or your estate are then potentially liable for any damages incurred by the accident.

Think of it this way...is it safe to drive your car at 120 mph down an interstate highway? It might be, but your chances of having an accident are greatly increased. The only difference is that the FAA won't pull you over and slap your wrists...they believe, wrongfully, that most pilots aren't that stupid. I hope that you, as a commercial pilot, realize that when we go flying, we have a responsibility to our paying passengers to operate as safely as possible. As my old sim instructor said, a PPL is a license to go kill yourself, a CPL is a license to kill others, and an ATPL is a license to kill others in great numbers...the responsibility we have as CPLs is not one that should be treated lightly.

[Edited 2005-06-17 20:57:43]

[Edited 2005-06-17 20:59:18]


Time...to un-pimp...ze auto!
User currently offlineUS A333 PIT From United States of America, joined Jan 2001, 310 posts, RR: 0
Reply 2, posted (9 years 3 months 6 days 16 hours ago) and read 14752 times:

Well, they approve severely overweighted takeoffs for ferry flights all the time. When a cirrus goes out to Hawaii on a delivery flight, with auxiliary fuel and tanks, it's takeoff weight can be a 1000 lbs over what is leagally certified under normal ops. If you're only 1 to 200 lbs over you probably won't have a problem (or see a huge difference in flight dynamics) however, you're taking a huge insurance risk, as if something goes wrong, even if it's not due to being overweight, chances are you won't be covered. I definitely would not recommend doing this if you don't have to. That said I'd rather takeoff 100 lbs overweight than out of the balance limitation every time.

User currently offlineWoodreau From United States of America, joined Sep 2001, 1042 posts, RR: 6
Reply 3, posted (9 years 3 months 6 days 13 hours ago) and read 14677 times:

I'm sure you know some of the effects of overloading an aircraft:

Higher takeoff speed required and subsequently
Longer takeoff run required
Reduced rate and angle of climb
Shorter range
Reduced cruising speed
Reduced maneuverability
Higher stall speed
Higher landing speed required
Longer landing roll required

So you take-off over gross. A normal category aircraft is normally certificated to withstand a load factor of +3.8g to -1.5g (Part 23). So if you maneuver an aircraft abruptly (because of turbulence or to avoid a collision or for whatever reason) - e.g. pull "gs" that wing is designed to take 3.8 times the max takeoff weight worth of load on the wings without damage. If you overload the aircraft, yes there is a 1.5 safety factor, but you may place the aircraft in a situation where the wing won't be able to support the load being placed on it when operating it within the designed speeds. Nothing will happen immediately, but the effects are cumulative, and eventually you'll have structural failure in the future even when operating the aircraft within the limits specified in the flight manual.

For flights over gross, the FAA will issue that permit to operate the aircraft over gross, but that process probably closely scrutinized by the manufacturer and the FAA. There is no assurance of any safety when the private operator overloads.

When you overload the airplane you also have no idea what the CG limits are - they do change as weight increases. So how do you know whether you're within CG or not? Well you can find out by overloading and then test the CG yourself... you'll know you've reached the forward limit when you can't pull up to flare for landing, and you'll know you've reached the aft limit when you can't push the nose over to break a stall....

But I agree, being out of CG is worse than being overweight.

Edit:
Oops sorry, the design factors that go into max weight is found in FAR 23.25 and the max load factor in 23.23 and 23.301-23.307.

[Edited 2005-06-18 00:40:30]


Bonus animus sit, ab experientia. Quod salvatum fuerit de malis usu venit judicium.
User currently offlinePrebennorholm From Denmark, joined Mar 2000, 6451 posts, RR: 54
Reply 4, posted (9 years 3 months 6 days 11 hours ago) and read 14629 times:

A lot of people have taken off in overweight condition - Charles Lindberg in Spirit of St. Louis and Dick Rutan / Jeane Yeager in Voyager to name a few.

Add to that just every test pilot on planet Earth. Because they have to go beyond the limits to know what safety margins are present when they have finished their job and handed the plane over to you, who stick to the rules.

Don't take off overweight. Because you don't know the performance data.

Some people may think that a 10% overweight means 10% longer runway and 10% less climb performance. Wrong! It is much worse. How bad? It depends on a hundred things and you just don't know. Because you don't have the performance charts.

The easiest thing to calculate for an overweight plane is probably the stalling speed. But that's probably also the most irrelevant thing to know since anywhere near stalling speed you may have burried yourself deep on the backside of the power curve.

Structure, wheels, tires, brakes etc... You just don't know how deep you eat into the safety margin the designers and test pilots gave you.



Always keep your number of landings equal to your number of take-offs, Preben Norholm
User currently offline727EMflyer From United States of America, joined Mar 2005, 547 posts, RR: 0
Reply 5, posted (9 years 3 months 6 days 7 hours ago) and read 14542 times:

Good replies... I'll keep my 2 cents to 2 cents.

Read some accident reports. Chances are most most that start off with the statement "shortly after take-off" will also contain the statement "failure to operate within limits" in the probable cause section.


User currently offlineMeister808 From United States of America, joined Jan 2000, 973 posts, RR: 1
Reply 6, posted (9 years 3 months 6 days 6 hours ago) and read 14513 times:

Amen to all of this.

Just because an airplane can perform well outside of its limits does not mean it has the structure or systems to do so.

-Meister



Twin Cessna 812 Victor, Minneapolis Center, we observe your operation in the immediate vicinity of extreme precipitation
User currently offlinePilotpip From United States of America, joined Sep 2003, 3150 posts, RR: 10
Reply 7, posted (9 years 3 months 6 days 5 hours ago) and read 14507 times:

So what happens when that overweight aircraft hits some nasty turbulence? The plane is already overweight, now it's being stressed to say, 3.8g. I don't want to know what's going to happen to those wings. Unless you're a test pilot doing this in extremly controlled situations, don't do it.

Aircraft are overbuilt. They are designed to exceed the limits placed in the operating handbook. This isn't done so that the pilot can ignore these numbers, it's so the pilot can be confident that the aircraft isn't going to start shedding parts when these limits are reached.



DMI
User currently offlineAirWillie6475 From United States of America, joined Jan 2005, 2448 posts, RR: 1
Reply 8, posted (9 years 3 months 6 days 4 hours ago) and read 14469 times:

Quoting 762er (Thread starter):
My buddy, an Sr22 owner, routinely takesoff 200 lbs over gross (3600 lbs in the case of the sr22) and says he's never had a problem so long as he maintains slightly higher airspeeds in the climb. THe only difference he sees is a slightly

That's very stupid and not safe. The people that made the manual for the Sr22 are not putting random weight restriction numbers, their best test pilots have determined the numbers. Unless your buddy is a test pilot, well he actually is because he is flying outside the limits, you should advise him that he shouldn't do that. The only time you can be overweight is when you know that you will burnoff some of the fuel during your taxi and runup.


User currently offlinePilotpip From United States of America, joined Sep 2003, 3150 posts, RR: 10
Reply 9, posted (9 years 3 months 5 days 22 hours ago) and read 14412 times:

I should add that I wouldn't fly with that buddy. Cirrus has had a reletively high number of accidents that could have been prevented. Your buddy could end up in this statistic as well. He's putting a lot of people at risk by doing that and quite frankly, shouldn't be flying.


DMI
User currently offline727EMflyer From United States of America, joined Mar 2005, 547 posts, RR: 0
Reply 10, posted (9 years 3 months 5 days 17 hours ago) and read 14347 times:

Quoting Pilotpip (Reply 9):
Cirrus has had a reletively high number of accidents that could have been prevented

I have noticed quite a few Cirrus's when I read through accident reports. I know we had a discussion not long ago about how safe the 172 was and the general consensus was you see them listed so much because they've been around forever and mostly used for initial flight training. So whats the story with the SR-22's? They are relatively new planes and typically used by owner/pilots...


User currently offlineDesertJets From United States of America, joined Feb 2000, 7780 posts, RR: 16
Reply 11, posted (9 years 3 months 5 days 17 hours ago) and read 14340 times:

Quoting 727EMflyer (Reply 10):
So whats the story with the SR-22's? They are relatively new planes and typically used by owner/pilots...

If I were to make a SWAG, I would speculate the story would be pretty similar to what happened with the old V-tailed Bonanzas in the 50s and 60s. Lots of guys with newly minted PPLs and more money than brains go out and buy the nicest, coolest, fastest plane that you could get. Back then the model 35 Bonanza, today something along the line of the Cirrus SR-22 would fit that bill. The plane might be a bit too much for a new pilot, plus throw in any number of peculiar handling attributes it might have, and you have a relatively high incident rate.



Stop drop and roll will not save you in hell. --- seen on a church marque in rural Virginia
User currently offlineMeister808 From United States of America, joined Jan 2000, 973 posts, RR: 1
Reply 12, posted (9 years 3 months 5 days 8 hours ago) and read 14230 times:

The shiniest new airplanes out there always have a poor crash record, and the only reason isn't because the people flying them are novice pilots. This has a big impact, but you also have to look at what the airplane is being sold for.

Quoting Pilotpip (Reply 7):
Aircraft are overbuilt. They are designed to exceed the limits placed in the operating handbook. This isn't done so that the pilot can ignore these numbers, it's so the pilot can be confident that the aircraft isn't going to start shedding parts when these limits are reached.

This overbuilding that is spoken of can be played with a little bit, of course. If someone is buying a training aircraft, they want to be sure it will be safe. Thus, manufacturers will be sure to write the numbers in the POH to reflect safety, and to give a bit more of a cushion should the pilot exceed the limits. If someone is buying a business or "show-off" aircraft, they want performance, and so the manufacturer will again go to the POH and move the buffer in the other direction, so that the numbers look better for performance-minded buyers. All this is just simple business.

It creates a bad problem, though, because the pilots with "more money than brains" go out and buy some of the most unforgiving airplanes out there. Pushing the limits in an SR-22 or BE36 gets you a lot closer to danger than pushing the limits in a C172 or a PA28.

-Meister



Twin Cessna 812 Victor, Minneapolis Center, we observe your operation in the immediate vicinity of extreme precipitation
User currently offlinePilotpip From United States of America, joined Sep 2003, 3150 posts, RR: 10
Reply 13, posted (9 years 3 months 4 days 21 hours ago) and read 14157 times:

The last three posts hit the nail on the head. I'm not saying that all sirrus pilots are going to "have more money than brains" however, that is not an aircraft that a low time pilot should be flying. We even have a couple people doing their ppl in them at my home airport. Too much airplane to be getting behind. For some new pilots, 150kts is too much to handle. When you start getting into aircraft of this caliber it's important to start paying more respect to the numbers. If you fly the aircraft by the numbers in the POH you'll get the results promised to you. However, this requires more precision and attention to detail.

A good example of this was a recent crash where the PFD went dead in IMC. The pilot drove it into the ground despite having a set of backup instruments three inches below the broken display.



DMI
User currently offlineAR1300 From Argentina, joined Feb 2005, 1740 posts, RR: 3
Reply 14, posted (9 years 3 months 4 days 6 hours ago) and read 14040 times:

Quoting Meister808 (Reply 6):
Just because an airplane can perform well outside of its limits does not mean it has the structure or systems to do so.

I couldn't have said it better.

Mike



They don't call us Continental for nothing.
User currently offlineMrChips From Canada, joined Mar 2005, 932 posts, RR: 0
Reply 15, posted (9 years 3 months 4 days 5 hours ago) and read 14024 times:

Quoting 727EMflyer (Reply 10):
I know we had a discussion not long ago about how safe the 172 was and the general consensus was you see them listed so much because they've been around forever and mostly used for initial flight training

Actually, the 172 has a lower accident rate per hour than just about any aircraft type out there. Read one of Richard L. Collins' articles on single engine safety and he'll tell you the same thing.

The reason why there seem to be more 172 accidents than any other type is simply because there are so damn many of them out there.



Time...to un-pimp...ze auto!
User currently offlineRedFlyer From United States of America, joined Feb 2005, 4329 posts, RR: 28
Reply 16, posted (9 years 3 months 15 hours ago) and read 13790 times:

Hey, I took off one time in a PA-128 that was 118 lbs overweight. I didn't do it deliberately. I just wrote a weight figure down incorrectly when I was doing the initial weight/balance figures. I noticed the t/o seemed sluggish - and it was on a hot day - and I kept looking at the tach thinking the engine wasn't performing as it should. It was only after I landed 3 hours later that I realized the mistake in my calculations. FYI, it was a x-country flight with three adults and three bags and before I even headed to the airport I knew I was going to be at limits. Not sure why when I thought I was well below max that I didn't double check my figures because I was prepared to ditch a pax and/or bag. It could have easily turned into a disaster given the high temps. But it's definitely something I would NEVER do deliberately.


My other home is a Piper Cherokee 180C
User currently offlineUS A333 PIT From United States of America, joined Jan 2001, 310 posts, RR: 0
Reply 17, posted (9 years 2 months 4 weeks 1 day 18 hours ago) and read 13701 times:

RedFlyer: Ooooh, that's really unsafe. It's one thing to takeoff overweight intentionally because then at least your expecting the diminished performance (i.e. you increase your takeoff roll for higher airspeeds and decrease your climb rates which in itself isn't that unsafe as long as conditions are good). But to unknowingly takeoff overweight expecting typical performance(especially in a little piper) could have been disastrous. That's a very common occurence. Pilots will miscalculate their weights and take off only stall when they exit ground effect (usually somewhere between 10 to 50 feet off the ground) and plummet down. I've seen it happen and it's not pretty.

User currently offlineTWAMD-80 From United States of America, joined Oct 2001, 1006 posts, RR: 4
Reply 18, posted (9 years 2 months 4 weeks 20 hours ago) and read 13588 times:

Taking off overweight is not a smart thing. It is very easy to get yourself into trouble if you decide to takeoff with excess weight. Last spring, I went to fly for a skydiving outfit. I was shown around the operation, and when I found out that I would be required to takeoff overweight between 100-300 lbs. I said no thanks and decided that it wasn't for me.

TW



Two A-4's, left ten o'clock level continue left turn!
User currently offlineKay From France, joined Mar 2002, 1884 posts, RR: 3
Reply 19, posted (9 years 2 months 3 weeks 3 days 23 hours ago) and read 13362 times:

Almost unbelievable..? The original post makes it sound like it is routine to take off at higher weight than MTOW....??
I follow the weight and balance and MTOW religiously...

Kay


User currently offlinePilotpip From United States of America, joined Sep 2003, 3150 posts, RR: 10
Reply 20, posted (9 years 2 months 3 weeks 3 days 18 hours ago) and read 13326 times:

Quoting Kay (Reply 19):
I follow the weight and balance and MTOW religiously...

As you should. One of the smartest things I've heard recently  Smile

Quoting TWAMD-80 (Reply 18):
when I found out that I would be required to takeoff overweight between 100-300 lbs. I said no thanks and decided that it wasn't for me.

However, this one takes the cake. Good call my friend. Pass up time so that you can live (and fly) another day. I hope we all make that decision when the time comes. The sad part of this, however, is that somebody that had little regard for himself, his passengers, or his certificate likely jumped in the aircraft and flew it for them anyway. It's crap like that which doesn't help our cause. The reason that pilots at the lower end get paid so poorly and fly equipment in dangerous conditions like this is because there is always somebody willing to do it.



DMI
User currently offlineRalgha From United States of America, joined Nov 1999, 1614 posts, RR: 6
Reply 21, posted (9 years 2 months 3 weeks 3 days 17 hours ago) and read 13306 times:

Following the W&B limits for a particular airplane is a great practice, but it's practically impossible unless you cap your personal weight limit at a somewhat smaller value than the published one.

Think about it. How accurate is that scale you're weighing baggage with? Do you even weight the baggage? Your weights are probably off by a couple pounds. When was the last time your passenger weighed him/herself? They're probably off by quite a few pounds. How accurate is that airplane empty weight? The accumulated crap under the floorboards adds up to quite a bit and isn't accounted for unless your airplane is fresh off the scales. Your fuel measurement isn't exactly perfect either, there's some more unknown pounds.

How about that CG measurement? Do you think that CG station printed in the POH is perfect? Not even close. You have to distribute the weight in each compartment in an anal retentive fashion to have the actual arm match the book arm.

Airliners take off overweight all the time. Do you think we really have any idea how heavy the airplane is? We don't have a clue. The estimates are wildly inaccurate, and it's not uncommon to find that the calculated trim setting for takeoff just wasn't a very good one.

I'm not advocating flying overweight, indeed you should never knowingly fly overweight, or out of CG. Know the inherient inaccuracies with the system though. Don't blindly follow the numbers.



09 F9 11 02 9D 74 E3 5B D8 41 56 C5 63 56 88 C0
User currently offlineCosmicCruiser From United States of America, joined Feb 2005, 2255 posts, RR: 15
Reply 22, posted (9 years 2 months 3 weeks 3 days 17 hours ago) and read 13300 times:

Quoting Ralgha (Reply 21):
Airliners take off overweight all the time. Do you think we really have any idea how heavy the airplane is? We don't have a clue. The estimates are wildly inaccurate,

I know what you're saying but at least from the operation I see I wouldn't say"all the time" nor "no idea..". Every container is weighed and I'd say it's pretty close. Have there been mistakes? Yes and planes have returned and demanded a re-weigh because of trim or handling problems. But unless you're taking off at at MTOGW you're probably under anyway. Second, if you're at MTOGW there's a buffer or pad that's considered "legal" as other aspects of perf. data has buffers built in. Intentionaly t/o when the numbers show you're over gross and you'll be the guy on the wrong side of a long table without a glass of water.


User currently offlineRalgha From United States of America, joined Nov 1999, 1614 posts, RR: 6
Reply 23, posted (9 years 2 months 3 weeks 3 days 14 hours ago) and read 13277 times:

Quoting CosmicCruiser (Reply 22):
I know what you're saying but at least from the operation I see I wouldn't say"all the time" nor "no idea.."

True, it's not all the time, but more often than you might think.

Quoting CosmicCruiser (Reply 22):
Every container is weighed and I'd say it's pretty close.

Maybe if they use containers they're weighed. If it's luggage, it's 30 pounds a bag. If it's an "overweight" bag, it's 60. If it's a carryon, it's 0. Magical isn't it?

Quoting CosmicCruiser (Reply 22):
Second, if you're at MTOGW there's a buffer or pad that's considered "legal" as other aspects of perf. data has buffers built in.

That's why they can take off overweight and still fly, just like GA airplanes.

Quoting CosmicCruiser (Reply 22):
Intentionaly t/o when the numbers show you're over gross and you'll be the guy on the wrong side of a long table without a glass of water.

I never said they took off with the numbers showing they're over gross. If you're over gross by 100 pounds, just take 4 bags from the cargo compartment and stick them in the cabin, the airplane is now 120 pounds (30*4) lighter on the paperwork. Magic!



09 F9 11 02 9D 74 E3 5B D8 41 56 C5 63 56 88 C0
User currently offlineCosmicCruiser From United States of America, joined Feb 2005, 2255 posts, RR: 15
Reply 24, posted (9 years 2 months 3 weeks 3 days 10 hours ago) and read 13244 times:

Quoting Ralgha (Reply 23):
Maybe if they use containers they're weighed. If it's luggage, it's 30 pounds a bag. If it's an "overweight" bag, it's 60. If it's a carryon, it's 0. Magical isn't it?

That's interesting that we're having this post since just a week ago or so the FAA told Fedex to start calculating the wgt of jumpseaters at 280lb to be more "realistic" since most folks bring larger suitcases and flight bags.
Do you think these numbers you quoted ( which seem fairly accurate) average out for a plane load? That would be interesting to try to really calculate the true wgt.
Do you agree that 121 a/c have the perf. buffers that err on the safe side where as G/A a/c don't. I'd rather fly an MD-11 a little over gross than a Seneca over gross.


25 Ralgha : Yes I'd agree to that, but it's not really part of my point anyway. Yeah they're accurate, this is what I do. Average out? Probably not. That's a hel
26 CosmicCruiser : LOL yeah I agree but it is a err to the safe side. Here's the directive. Effective immediately, Wt&Bal paperwork will begin to indicate a weight of 2
27 Ralgha : Is that just for Fedex?
28 Post contains links Whiskeyflyer : another thing regarding overweight take offs is to consider your operational enviroment particularly regarding hot and high takeoffs....... we've had
29 MrChips : EXACTLY. Depending on the conditions, my pucker factor goes way up during a takeoff at near gross weight (within a hundred pounds or so), much less t
30 Pilotpip : Yes, the 172sp I'm flying from time to time is in all reality a two-three person aircraft with full fuel because of the way it's equipped. All those n
31 Whiskeyflyer : at least Pilotpip you know your limits Scares me when I see the newbie PPL taking the whole family up.
32 AFHokie : Occasionally I'll go along for the ride with a pilot friend of mine, (I'm not) the place he rents from has 172's and 150's. I asked him one day why he
33 Sccutler : I always respect weight & balance, have not been qualified as a test pilot yet. Recall watching (on the day I passed my PP checkride, purely coinciden
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