No, despite the above title, I’m not trying to move some product on the street. Rather, when was the last time you looked over your aircraft’s Empty Weight & Balance Record (EWBR) and Equipment List (EL)? My what?
Exactly. Usually, the first answers I get from some pilots is: “I calculate that before each flight;” or “You mean an MEL?” Close but no cigar. Even on the maintenance side there are mechanics who don’t realize that the EWBR and EL are directly related to the airworthiness of an aircraft.
Fortunately, for Part 135 operations, the issue of EWBRs and ELs is closely monitored due to regulatory requirements on weight & balance controls and the use of an OEM, or equivalent, aircraft maintenance program. The real issue is in the Part 91 or General Aviation worlds.
The main reason for a lack of EWBR and EL understanding is there is no reference to it in Part 91 and only a single obscure reference in Part 43. One of the few regulatory references to the aircraft EWBR and EL can be found in Parts 23, 25, 27, and 20, which are the airworthiness standards covering the type certification of aircraft. Consequently, these specific references make the EWBR and EL documents part of the aircraft certified type design.
Well, if the EWBR and EL are so important, why didn’t the FAA put these items somewhere more prominent, you ask. They did. In aviation parlance, they are referenced in the most important public document for an aircraft, the Type Certificate Data Sheet (TCDS).
The TCDS is a summary of the conditions and limitations required under the aircraft’s Type Certificate (TC). It is the go-to document for the issue/reissue of airworthiness certificates (AWC). It is also used to verify the airworthiness of an aircraft.
Most TCDSs contain a statement in the “Data Pertinent to all Models” section which is usually found under Note 1. Here’s a portion of Note 1 from TC H2SW that covers the Bell 206: “Current weight and balance report including list of required equipment and list of equipment included in certificated empty weight…”
But probably the most important reason to keep on top of your EWBR and EL is directly related to your next ramp check. Rounding out the Aircraft Document hit list on the official FAA Ramp Check job aid is the weight-and-balance records and the equipment list—right after the airworthiness certificate, registration, and the flight manual.
So the next time you’re out pre-flighting an aircraft or performing a 100hr/annual inspection, pull out the aircraft Empty Weight & Balance Record and Equipment List for a quick check. If the papers are yellowed or have a date older than you, it might be time to update those forgotten yet important documents.
Some click-bait on weight and balance:
About the author: After 32 years maintaining helicopters in various capacities, Scott concluded a full time career with a major operator in 2014. When not pursuing future writing projects, he can still be seen around the flight line tinkering on aircraft for beer money. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.