Plane balance

Calculate general aviation flight loads before takeoff with this free tool.

General aviation pilots can use Aircraft Weight and Balance to check their aircraft before takeoff. It takes into account the weight of the pilot, the plane's oil and fuel, plus the weight of any front or rear passengers and their baggage. The program has presets for one actual aircraft plus two dummy presets. Users can edit the program's INI file to input data for their specific planes.

The program's interface is basic but functional, and pilots will understand it easily. The first question we had when we opened the program was how to make a preset for a specific plane. There's a good Help file with step-by-step instructions to personalize the program by updating the INI file with your own plane's data. We examined the data for the software's preset aircraft, a Cessna 172N/1980. We tried increasing the weight input for the pilot and baggage, and the program informed us when the weight was too excessive for the plane to operate safely. This information would be very important for any pilot. The program offers other useful information for pilots, such as torque readings and a graph displaying the aircraft's moment envelope.

Novice computer users might find it too difficult to configure this program for their personal use, but the instructions provided in the Help file should be sufficient for more-experienced users. Aircraft Weight and Balance installs and uninstalls with no problems, and it's free. It would be a useful addition to any small aircraft pilot's usual preflight safety check.

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