I've been trained to know the calculated gross weight and center of gravity for takeoff and landing for every flight for which I have acted as pilot in command.

I've had other instructors dispute that this is not a requirement and simply being familiar enough with the aircraft to reasonably be able to estimate that you're within C.G. tolerances considering the fuel and passengers is satisfactory.

Are there any regulations that explicitly define the requirements of pre-flight weight and balance familiarization for civil airplanes requiring an AFM containing takeoff and landing distance data?

If not, surely there is some catch-all so lawyers can sue us easier; what would that most likely be based on case law? 14 CFR 91.13, the "all available information concerning that flight" clause from 14 CFR 91.103, or something else?

Note that 14 CFR 91.103(b) requires familiarization with runway lengths of intended use and takeoff and landing distance data for any flight; myself and others would argue that being able to meet that condition would require, at a minimum, familiarization with certain weather metrics and knowing the airplane's loaded gross weight.

However, I am still not seeing an explicit requirement to know a specific C.G. figure.

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    $\begingroup$ I don't have enough detailed knowledge of the legal requirements, but wouldn't knowing the CG be a necessary step to ensure the aircraft is loaded within its safe envelope? Mostly because "being familiar enough with the aircraft to reasonably be able to estimate that you're within C.G." is the equivalent of "it felt right to me, no idea why it stalled on takeoff, Your Honor" and won't stand up to scrutiny. We stopped flying like that in the 60-70s, thankfully $\endgroup$ Apr 30, 2019 at 9:02
  • $\begingroup$ I'd expect any requirement to be about the gross weight/CG envelope rather than the actual position of the CG, the sort of thing shown in the graphic here: trumpetb.net/alph/wbPA28-140.html I know of one recent prosecution in the UK for 'endangering an aircraft' that was due to overloading: manchestereveningnews.co.uk/news/greater-manchester-news/… God knows where that aircraft would be on the graphic when it was overloaded by more than 400lb! $\endgroup$ Apr 30, 2019 at 11:58
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    $\begingroup$ For every flight? That means that every time I want to take the Cherokee up for a spin, I should do a new weight & balance computation? I don't think so :-) $\endgroup$
    – jamesqf
    Apr 30, 2019 at 16:14
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    $\begingroup$ @jamesqf Yes, every flight. Of course, if the load will be (roughly) the same as a previous flight and you didn't date your work... $\endgroup$
    – StephenS
    Apr 30, 2019 at 18:20
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    $\begingroup$ In my training Tomahawk, we couldn’t fill her up with dual crew due MTOM limit, so we took something like 3/4 tanks. I am rather tall, so my seat was far back, and my instructor was shorter, so a bit more forward. CG and mass was calculated once, aircraft basic index wasn’t modified ever, and all flights used same setup. I can assure you that CG calculation was meticulously done and cross checked once prior first dual flight and then once prior first solo (full tanks now). Any time after that, we’d brief that we were in known standard configuration. $\endgroup$ Apr 30, 2019 at 19:19

1 Answer 1


True. It is the pilot-in-command's responsibility to determine if the aircraft is safe for flight. 14 CFR § 91.3(a) makes the PIC directly responsible for that.

The 2016 FAA Weight and Balance Handbook also states:

4. The pilot in command (PIC) has the responsibility prior to every flight to know the maximum allowable weight of the aircraft and its CG limits. This allows the pilot to determine during the preflight inspection that the aircraft is loaded so that the CG is within the allowable limits


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