I'm a little confused about the definition of the load factor, n, as the definitions I found seem to contradict its application in force and moment balance analysis of an aircraft structure.
The definition given in my university script states that the load factor equals the ratio of all external forces acting on an aircraft minus its weight, to the magnitude of the aircraft's weight; this implies that the load factor is the ratio of all aerodynamic forces acting on an aircraft to the magnitude of its weight.
The Wikipedia definition of the load factor states that the load factor is the ratio of the sum total of all aerodynamic forces acting on an aircraft to its weight.
My script definition therefore tallies with the Wikipedia definition. All good so far.
Now, however, there is also a sentence in my script that states that the load factor is a means of including all inertial loads and gravity loads in observing the loading of an aircraft; this implies that weight is included in observing the loading of an aircraft: this makes better sense to me, since, when expressing the loading of an aircraft, it would be easier to say that the aircraft is now being loaded "this many times its weight", compared to this many newtons; this however, contradicts the definitions above.
And now to the force and moment balance analysis issue, I noticed that all components of an aircraft are expressed in terms of its load factor, which is fine, but then in performing the balance, the weight of the components are not considered. How can you ignore the weight force which is always acting on the aircraft when the load factor (per definition) excludes it? An added confusion is in that lift is considered in the moment balance, with all component's loading expressed in terms of load factor; how can you include lift, when it is already incorporated into the load factor of the components; this implies that the part is further loaded above its current loading.
I would appreciate if someone can straighten up what the load factor means, and how should it be applied in force and moment balance calculations.