As if traveling by plane were not already arduous enough, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has rolled out a plan for airlines with an advisory circular providing details recommending Aircraft Weight and Balance Control (AWBC) be revisited by airlines.
On May 6, the FAA released an advisory circular (AC) detailing the plans for the new program, but noted it was guidance and would not come with an administrative penalty from the DOT or the FAA.
“This AC contains guidance that is not legally binding in its own right and will not be relied upon by the Department of Transportation (DOT) or the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) as a separate basis for affirmative enforcement action or other administrative penalty. Moreover, conformity with this guidance document (as distinct from existing statutes and regulations) is voluntary only, and nonconformity will not affect rights and obligations under existing statutes and regulations,” the circular said.
Albeit a lengthy document, to put it frankly, passengers are fatter than they used to be and airlines need to revisit passenger and baggage weight and adjust accordingly.
The guidelines outline plane and passenger size: 71 or more passenger seats is considered a large cabin aircraft; 30 to 70 passenger seats is considered medium cabin aircraft and 5 to 29 passenger seats is considered a small cabin aircraft.
The document notes the AWBC implemented in June of 2005 has since been canceled.
In addition to the many moving pieces of flying including fuel, crew and baggage, it is possible passengers may not also need to be weighed and could be seated according to weight to help balance the aircraft and ensure a safe flight.
Several options are provided in order for aviators to determine weight the first, using calculations based on standard average weight, average weight based on survey or actual weight. Volunteer passengers and random sampling methods may also be used.
“An operator that chooses to weigh passengers as part of a survey should take care to protect the privacy of passengers. The scale readout should remain hidden from public view. An operator should ensure that any passenger weight data collected remains confidential,” the circular said.
Actual weight must be registered for all baggage leaving passengers as the primary variant that could impact flight safety.
Although privacy of passengers is to be protected as much as possible, data will be retained for future use.
To read more about the subject you may read the circular by visiting https://www.faa.gov/documentLibrary/media/Advisory_Circular/AC_120-27F.pdf.