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ALC-103: Helicopter - Weight & Balance, Performance
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FAA Safety Team
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It is vital to comply with weight and balance limits established for helicopters. Operating above the maximum weight limitation compromises the structural integrity of the helicopter and adversely affects performance. Balance, both laterally and longitudinally, is also critical because on some fully loaded helicopters, center of gravity deviations as small as three inches can dramatically change a helicopter’s handling characteristics. Taking off in a helicopter that is not within the weight and balance limitations is extremely unsafe.



Figure i-1: The location of the center of gravity strongly influences how the helicopter handles.


It is important to compute weight and balance for each flight, as fuel, passenger, and even pilot weight can vary significantly from flight to flight. There are several different methods available to determine weight and balance:


         Computation – Weight sums and their individual moments are calculated, allowing for total weight and CG determination

         Loading Chart – Weights are used as look-up points on manufacturer-provided “CG envelope” charts

         Combination – Computation is used to determine moments and CG, and charts are used to determine if the values intersect within acceptable limits


Being able to predict the performance of a helicopter is extremely important. Performance calculations enable determination of how much weight the helicopter can carry before takeoff, if the helicopter can safely hover at a specific altitude and temperature, how far it will take to climb above obstacles, and what the maximum climb rate will be.


Several factors effect performance including:

         Density altitude




Helicopter manufacturers provide performance charts that account for these factors, and enable determination of take-off distances, rate of climb, and maximum In-ground effect (IGE) and Out of ground effect (OGE) hovering altitudes.


Related Media for this Section
View the file FAA-H-8083-21 Rotorcraft Flying Handbook.pdf
Helicopter Flying Handbook
FAA-H-8083-21 Rotorcraft Flying Handbook.pdf (16.92 MB)
View the file FAA-H-8083-1A Weight and Balance Handbook.pdf
Aircraft Weight and Balance Handbook
FAA-H-8083-1A Weight and Balance Handbook.pdf (12.53 MB)
View the file FAA-H-8083-21 Rotorcraft Flying Handbook Glossary.pdf
Glossary of Terms used in this Course
FAA-H-8083-21 Rotorcraft Flying Handbook Glossary.pdf (59.92 KB)

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