He Aint Heavy

By Chris Kyle

“He ain't heavy, he's my brother !”
Yes we all look after one another and sometimes carry additional load to assist our 'brothers and sisters' to cope with troublesome life situations but if rules are continually broken by our 'brothers and sisters' with no effort on their part to rectify the situation then eventually we will tire in our efforts and step back in resignation and allow a course of events to take place. That's not to say we should be judgmental but rather that there is a limit and extent that we can go to help, which is fair.

The same applies to the aeroplanes that we fly. They are telling us in no uncertain terms what they can do to help us. In the Pilot Operating Handbook, they are
VERY CLEAR on what they can and cannot do to ensure our safety.

If we continually overstep the mark then we must be prepared to pay the price, but remember when this costly price is paid, firstly it is unnecessary and secondly it will be another reason for everyone to go “See, I told you so, General Aviation is filled with 'cowboys' and people who don't know what they are doing and have little respect for life or rules”.

High on the list of the main causes of serious and fatal accidents alongside to Controlled Flight into Terrain and continuation of VFR flight into Instrument Meteorological Conditions and many others is the unlawful and wrong loading of aircraft. Downright ignorance and carelessness is also included into the equation.

In normal situations and societies it goes against human nature to:

· Be unlawful.
· Do things inappropriately.
· Be ignorant.
· Be careless.

Here's the thing:

“The aircraft appeared to be heavily laden and got airborne only towards the end of the runway but failed to clear the power lines situated almost a kilometre from the end of the runway.”

“The aircraft managed to become airborne in the runway available but appeared to have stalled shortly after becoming airborne.”

Getting an aircraft safely airborne is a critical phase of flight and often too little emphasis and diligence is applied to this potentially hazardous activity!

In Essence there are a number of very important things that we as pilots must consider carefully when loading our aircraft and preparing for flight.
Here are a few.

1) Evaluation of physical characteristics of departure Aerodrome i.e. available runway length, type of Runway surface, upslope/down slope, land and other obstacles on the take-off path etc. This information is contained in the AIP's and must be carefully scrutinized and taken cognizance of.
Atmospheric and Meteorological conditions i.e.
Density Altitude
(altitude corrected for temperature and Pressure), Temperature Deviations from ISA at prevailing Pressure Altitude, headwind / tailwind / and cross wind components, dry or wet runway, wake turbulence, wind-shear and probable downdrafts caused by wind and topography. The Pilot Operating Handbook must be consulted in order to establish how these
conditions will adversely affect Aircraft performance.

Pilot proficiency, handling technique and ability on type (possible braking activity during the take of roll in order to maintain directional control in a strong x-wind, short field Take-Off technique etc).

4) Performance of the specific aircraft, benchmarked against performance data as shown in the Pilot Operating Handbook? Not all aircraft of the same type perform the same! How will all of these factors affect a safe departure with the intended LOAD to be carried? Whichever way the Maximum All Up Weight should never ever be exceeded!!!!!!! Decision time!! Reduce the payload? Reduce the amount of fuel? - but then will we be legal in terms of fuel requirements? Do we delay until more favourable Meteorological and Atmospheric conditions prevail? we must by all means ensure that:

a) TAKE OFF GROUND ROLL (distance to become airborne) parameters can be met and that we can become airborne in the Take Off Runway Available leaving sufficient runway and 'Stopway' available so that should engine failure occur at Lift-Off, the aircraft can be brought to a safe standstill.

(distance to clear a 50' obstacle) After becoming airborne, will the performance of the aircraft with its current load in the prevailing atmospheric conditions allow it to clear all obstacles on the take-off path? It's one thing getting airborne but it's another thing clearing obstacles after becoming airborne!

c) CLIMB PERFORMANCE once all initial obstacles are cleared after take-off will the aircraft be capable establishing a climb gradient sufficient to clear other terrain in the vicinity?

It would be well worth your while to do some research and recap on Runway Physical Dimensions and definitions such as Take Off Distance Available (TODA), Take Off Run Available (TORA) Stopway, Clearway etc. What these mean and how they can be used in our calculations.

CENTRE of GRAVITY: We must ALWAYS ensure that the aircraft is loaded with the Centre of Gravity within the prescribed envelope and that all loads are properly secured. Failing to do this will cause the aircraft to be unstable in flight and even become uncontrollable in some cases once airborne.
Some horrible accidents have occurred due to failing to secure loads which have shifted beyond the CG limits at take-off or simply because of improper CG location considerations! N.B. It is essential that CG is within the 'Utility Category' Envelope for certain intentional manoeuvres!

Amongst many more!

· Make sure that your pilot seat is firmly locked in position. Big surprise if it slides back during take-off and you can't reach the controls!

· DANGEROUS GOODS, loaded firearms, flammable goods, corrosive substances, explosive goods, angry or intoxicated passengers etc. Do some research on Dangerous Goods! Do some research on this!

· MAGNETISED EQUIPMENT. Goods of this nature can affect the Magnetic Compass! No jokes, I once knew a pilot that set sail according to his compass almost 90 degrees off track in the Kalahari Desert and got totally lost.

· COMPACT, VERY HEAVY EQUIPMENT. Although you've ensured that the CG and MAUW has not been exceeded and that such equipment is properly secured but because of it's high weight to mass ratio it might exceed the floor load limits of the aircraft and could cause structural damage in flight especially in turbulent air.

· LOSE ITEMS such as cold drink bottles are properly stowed. The last thing you want is for them to be tossed around the cockpit in turbulent air and then to get stuck under a rudder peddle which you can't reach, for example.

· ITEMS NEEDED FOR NAVIGATION such as Charts, Flight Logs, etc are in reach for use once in flight - cockpit management!

Completion and considerations of a Load and Take Off Data Sheet should be standard procedure for each and every flight. Any Flight School worth half its salt will be of the mind-set to instil in all candidates that doing so is an integral part of 'Threat and Error Management' and that no flight should ever depart without such considerations!
So should the mind-set of considering a well thought out Take 0ff briefing be standard. Not just a recital but carefully tailoring a plan of action suited to the conditions and terrain should an emergency arise during a specific Take Off!

Below see examples of Load and Take-Off Data Sheets completed for a C172.

So what do you say? I say let's not be so ' Heavy' on our Aeroplanes! If we have not been thinking about these things then let's start right now before it's too late.

Until next time, happy Take-Offs and safe Landings.

The contents of this article is not meant to be prescriptive but was created to offer guidelines only. Information may not be technically correct and should therefore not be used for actual flight situations.

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