ARINC Patent Eliminates Guesswork in Figuring Aircraft Weight and Balance

ANNAPOLIS (ARINC) Who weighs more a dozen pro football players or twelve Explorer Scouts? Surprisingly, both Scouts and linebackers are treated the same when airlines figure the weight and balance of planes before takeoff. Under current FAA guidelines, a dozen men weigh 2400 pounds whether they’re large or small.

Assigning different people a regulation weight like 200 pounds is an over-simplification. 

But until now, it has been impractical to get a better handle on actual passenger weights and seating—data that would be especially beneficial on regional and smaller aircraft. ARINC Incorporated this week disclosed a patent for automated weight-and-balance technology to weigh passengers and their carry-on items unobtrusively before boarding.

The system automatically performs precise weight-and-balance calculations in real time, allowing airlines to determine true weight and balance based on actual load conditions. This will allow operators to optimize fuel loads, cargo capacity—even the seating positions of passengers and bags—for safer and more efficient operation. Passenger weights and positions affect an aircraft’s center of gravity and thus its attitude in flight. Attitude and weight also greatly affect fuel consumption. ARINC’s system is an unobtrusive way of obtaining actual weights conveniently, before boarding, and linking the weights to seat positions. This data simplifies take-off performance calculations and helps maximize aircraft efficiency. ARINC received U.S. Patent 6,923,375 for the system August 2.

The inventor, Rolf Stefani, Director of Technology and Product Development, used his knowledge of weight and balance systems for air cargo, and applied the technology to weights and locations of passengers and their carry-on baggage on board regional and smaller aircraft. “This eliminates the current potential for error,” said Stefani, “It is a low-cost, real-time technology that accounts for actual weight and balance using actual seat locations.” When the FAA raised its “regulation” weight for adult males to 200 pounds, the change especially affected operators of regional and smaller aircraft. Some had to remove seats or reduce cargo. And without accurate weight and balance data, operators must carry excess fuel, which increases the cost of flying. In addition, improper balance affects the controllability of aircraft.

By replacing estimates with real data, ARINC’s technology allows aircraft to operate more efficiently and safely. The ARINC patent description reads: “Weight balancing systems and methods are used to automate the process of weighing passengers and their baggage, including carry-on baggage, to accurately and quickly determine the passenger and passenger baggage location on a specific aircraft/vehicle to generate an efficient and precise aircraft load plan and provide data to determine loaded aircraft weight and balance.” ARINC Incorporated is the world leader in transportation communications and systems engineering.

The company develops and operates communications and information processing systems and provides systems engineering and integration solutions to five key industries: airports, aviation, defense, government, and surface transportation. Founded to provide reliable and efficient radio communications for the airlines, ARINC is headquartered in Annapolis, Maryland, and operates key regional offices in London and Singapore, with over 3,000 employees worldwide. ARINC is ISO 9001:2000 Certified.

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