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8 Weight And Balance Terms Every Pilot Should Know

Weight and balance is a tricky topic. Start by memorizing these terms...

1) Standard Empty Weight

The weight of a standard airplane including unusable fuel, full operating fluids (hydraulic fluids) and full oil. This is also called Zero Fuel Weight (ZFW).


2) Basic Empty Weight

Standard Empty Weight plus optional equipment. This is the starting point of weight and balance calculations.


3) Useful Load

Useful load is total usable fuel, cargo, passengers, and drainable fuel. Equation: Maximum Ramp Weight - Basic Empty Weight = Useful Load

4) Payload

This one is simple. Think of payload as what's "paying" for the flight: passengers, bags, and cargo. It's how much weight you can carry besides basic empty weight and fuel.


5) Maximum Ramp Weight (Taxi Weight)

This is the maximum allowable weight mass for ground operations. MRW assures acceptable ground maneuverability and includes fuel for taxi, run-up and start.

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6) Maximum Takeoff Weight (MTOW)

Maximum allowable mass for the initiation of a takeoff roll. Depending on how big your airplane is, you may have a variety of MTOWs limited by: structural limitations, runway distance, climb performance, or landing weight limits.


7) Minimum Flight Weight (MFW)

Minimum certificated weight for flight as limited by aircraft strength and airworthiness requirements. This weight has a lot to do with the balance of weight considering fuel/payload distribution.

8) Maximum Landing Weight (MLW)

Maximum landing weight is usually a structural limit, but may include calculations based on missed approach climb performance.


Did we miss anything? What other terms should pilots know for weight and balance? Tell us in the comments below.

Swayne Martin

Swayne is an editor at Boldmethod, certified flight instructor, and an Embraer 145 First Officer for a regional airline. He graduated as an aviation major from the University of North Dakota in 2018, holds a PIC Type Rating for Cessna Citation Jets (CE-525), and is a former pilot for Mokulele Airlines. He's the author of articles, quizzes and lists on Boldmethod every week. You can reach Swayne at, and follow his flying adventures on his YouTube Channel.

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