Feb. 22, 2021

Operators face a looming deadline to receive approval for updated operations specifications (OpSpecs) that refer to revised guidance from the FAA on weight and balance computations. By June 11, approved OpSpecs must utilize guidance contained in Advisory Circular (AC) 120-27F.

Review AC 120-57F.

The revised AC contains several changes, including some that have caused confusion for business aircraft operators since its publication in May 2019. Over the past several months, NBAA personnel have joined Cary Robins, a member of the Society of Aircraft Performance and Operations Engineers, in discussions with FAA policy experts about these issues.

For example, the revised AC removed standard passenger weight tables used by operators for decades. While the AC retained National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey data compiled by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as an acceptable alternative, it offers little guidance by which users may derive average weights from that information.

The AC also calls for flight operations to weigh as many as 1,400 passenger bags and 1,400 personal items at one or more airports representing at least 15 of an operator’s daily departures – a requirement geared toward commercial airlines, but one that could take smaller business aviation operations several months or even years to meet.

“This is a rather cumbersome requirement,” said Robins. “However, the FAA also encourages operators to work with their principal operations inspector and FAA headquarters to arrive at a more workable survey size.” FAA representatives also verbally acknowledged that operators may establish initial standard weights for a “personal item,” “checked bag” and “heavy bag” while performing a survey to validate that weight. However, no formal guidance has been released.

Discussions also continue on the need to weigh personal items, which Brian Koester, CAM, NBAA director of flight operations and regulations, termed “perhaps the point of greatest consternation” for business aviation operators.

“Passengers choose business aviation for security and privacy,” he said. “We don’t want to ask them to hand over personal items that may contain sensitive information, especially since those personal items likely will not have a drastic effect on the weight and balance of the aircraft.”

Operators seeking additional flexibility are encouraged to work with their POI and establish a pathway to communicate their needs to FAA headquarters and its Air Carrier Operations Branch (AFS-220.) An upcoming NBAA roundtable discussion will offer additional tips to assist industry efforts to meet the compliance deadline; operators may contact ops@nbaa.org for more information or to join that discussion.