How is an Aircraft Weighed?

Weighing an aircraft seems like a mammoth, nearly impossible task. Despite its inconvenience, accurately weighing an aircraft is the only surefire method of finding its empty weight (the weight of the aircraft minus passengers, luggage, and fuel) and the location of the center of gravity. The two tools used to weigh aircraft are platform and load cell scales.

Platform scales, sometimes called ramp wheel scales, are safe, reliable, easy to use, low-profile parts. To use these scales, the aircraft is towed or pushed onto the scales at ground level. One scale is used for each wheel, with each scale being capable of measuring up to 60,000 pounds. Scales are manufactured to withstand this weight in particular since the force on each wheel rarely exceeds this amount.

Load cell scales are just as reliable as platforms while typically remaining much cheaper. Load cell scales provide users with the ability to set up the aircraft and weigh it in its level flight attitude. The aircraft is placed on jacks and the electronic load cells are mounted between the jack and the aircraft. The jacks lift the aircraft until the wheels or skids are fully off the ground and the aircraft is in a level flight attitude. Once measured, the aircraft weight is displayed on a remote control panel.

Although load cells are the more cost-effective method of aircraft weighing, many operators opt for the more expensive platform scales due to their convenience. Jacking an aircraft off the ground can be a significant hassle in addition to being a safety risk. Furthermore, platform scales can perform the same task in one-third of the time. Just like any other aviation part, aircraft weighing tools must be cared for diligently. Aircraft weighing equipment should be calibrated at least every twelve months, but depending on the conditions of their use, an airworthiness authority could reduce that time. 

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