I’ve worked in the airline industry for more than 27 years, primarily in operations and airports. And over the years, I’ve seen many ways of handling the challenge of weight and balance. I understand how crucial it is to get it right, with safety being a primary factor, along with cost savings and efficiencies playing significant roles.
When I first started in the industry, I worked for a small airline in California. They flew Beech C99s and Metroliners, with weight and balance handled manually by the crew. In those days, all I knew was that if there were going to be 13 people on the aircraft, then we needed to load 13 bags into the nose of the plane, but if we had 14 people, we needed to have 17 bags in the nose. And let me tell you, loading a C99 nose with 17 bags was a lot like trying to cram a full-size suitcase worth of clothing into a small carry-on. But somehow, we always managed to make it work.
When we had limited time due to short turns, however, we had to work closely with the flight crew to maximize the payload. And we often had delays on full flights as we tried to get all those bags and passengers on board. Later in my career, we got fancier and started using a “Whiz Wheel.” This tool helped us more accurately calculate the aircraft’s center of gravity (CG), and sped up the entire weight and balance process. It was a huge improvement over the way we’d been doing things.
The “load” to evolution
The airline grew, and as fun as it was spinning that Whiz Wheel to see if the aircraft was in balance or not, we eventually needed a better, faster way to handle weight and balance, and maximize the payload. The IT and Engineering team included some pretty smart guys, and they developed our own software to automate the process. This was a big deal because it took the workload out of the cockpit, allowing the crew to focus on getting the aircraft ready for departure. And the operations group was able to shift their priorities toward serving the customers.
After I moved on from that airline, I did consulting for several airlines and got to see multiple types of weight and balance methods, ranging from completely manual to semi-automated. I always remembered how important it was for safety reasons to get weight and balance right. What I didn’t learn until I joined Amadeus, however, were the other benefits of a properly loaded aircraft with optimal trim.
A new kind of load-planning system
The Amadeus Flight Management load-planning solution can save an airline thousands of gallons of fuel. One of my customers, who recently purchased our Flight Management solution, was telling me how easy it was to justify the cost of making the purchase, simply by showing the benefits his airline would receive when using this fully automated load-planning system. Benefits such as:
- Improved fuel efficiency from the Accurate Zero Fuel Weight calculation and trim management.
- Increased productivity due to auto-planning the payload and allowing load planners to spend more time preparing for challenging flights.
- Reduced delays with real-time information shared between reservation systems, Amadeus Flight Management and aircraft loaders.
- A smoother departure process with less surprises.
We’ve certainly come a long way since my days of stuffing bags into the noses of those C99s, and spinning Whiz Wheels to calculate an aircraft’s proper weight and balance. Now, airlines can “lighten their loads” with benefits like cargo optimization, improved productivity and fuel savings. I’m excited to think about what the future holds for airlines adopting a fully automated solution such as Amadeus Flight Management.