The Importance of Understanding an Aircraft’s Empty Weight

The Importance of Understanding an Aircraft’s Empty Weight

In all aircraft there are legal weight limits for certain events, such as a maximum take-off weight and a maximum landing weight. These weights are typically constant for all aircraft throughout an entire model type. However, a very important weight that varies for each serial number is the empty weight. Empty weight is the weight of the aircraft itself without passengers, baggage, fuel or any of the items that vary flight to flight. This weight can vary for each individual aircraft depending on items that are permanently installed in the plane, such as a large galley, a credenza, extra seats, heavy carpet or interior materials, or WIFI (which can be a surprisingly heavy system).
When an aircraft has a heavy empty weight, its range can be restricted when it is carrying a full cabin of passengers. We worked with a client who owned a Citation III and was bemoaning that he could not make it non-stop from his base in Texas to New York City when he had a full passenger load. When we investigated this because a Citation III should be able to travel this distance non-stop, we discovered that his aircraft had about a 450 pounds heavier empty weight than an average Citation III due to the interior installations on the aircraft. When the amount of weight an aircraft can take with full fuel is fairly limited anyway, those extra pounds can make a difference to your operational capabilities. Empty weight, especially in larger aircraft, can often vary by a few hundred pounds.
A heavier empty weight does not mean you should not consider an aircraft to purchase; it does mean that you need to be aware of how that weight will affect you operationally. If you plan to frequently fly with full passengers, the empty weight is a factor you need to be aware of so you do not find yourself having to make an extra fuel stop. By law, an aircraft in Europe must be weighed every four years to adjust the empty weight. Over time, aircraft gain weight simply due to the accumulation of dirt and other items. The aircraft also must be weighed every time a fixture or structural item is installed whether that be a new interior material, an avionics upgrade, WIFI or re-painting the exterior.

As boring as talk of empty weight can be, it is very important to a happy ownership experience which is our ultimate goal for our clients.
Marian Jancarik
Sales Director – Central & Eastern Europe

Understanding your passenger and range requirements early on in your aircraft search will help you and your aircraft broker know certain details, like empty weight, that must be considered. Knowing up front where potential obstacles may lie will make your ownership more enjoyable in the long run.