April 1, 2022
Did you know that many small and even large jet aircraft cannot take off with full fuel tanks, passengers in every seat and full cargo bays? It’s true! Sellers of corporate jets that have eight seats actively advertise how far the aircraft can fly, but half the cabin seats have to be empty before the jets can fly that distance! Weight is a critical factor in the science of flight. If you’re not careful you can put too much weight in one of four areas of an aircraft: front, rear or left or right sides. There are limits for each area due to aircraft design constraints and you cannot control the aircraft when you exceed those standards. With too much weight you cannot even get the aircraft off the ground.
Every pilot is instructed on how to calculate weight and balance and must pass a weight and balance test to be awarded a pilot’s license. Before each flight, pilots are required to perform calculations and even complete a report to confirm the calculations were performed for the flight. Unfortunately, over the years, there are documented investigations where pilots failed to complete this critical required task, which resulted in bad accidents.
As the saying goes, “There are bold pilots and there are old pilots but there aren’t many old and bold pilots.” Unfortunately, there is another saying, “Aviation has a way of weeding out its weak.” I personally know a once young pilot who about 40 years ago loaded three very heavy wooden antique pinball machines into the cabin of a Piper Navajo twin engine piston propeller aircraft at the San Antonio airport without calculating the weight and balance. By removing all of the cabin seats, the three very heavy games with mechanical workings barely fit inside the cabin. Using almost all of the long commercial runway, the plane barely got off the ground headed for Dallas. Thankfully nothing bad happened and the old pilot is still around to share this story. It seems that there are things in aviation that too often we take for granted. This complacency can get us in a mess but isn’t that true about life in general?
I have some “Weight and Balance” rules for life that I try to observe. I also attempt to calculate the “Weight and Balance” in the lives of those I encounter to see if I should be concerned for them or if an overloaded area they may have could impact my relationship with them. I strive to seek the right balance to have a wholesome life. Just like in aviation, too much weight will get you killed. Too much weight in the wrong positions of your life will throw off your ability to control your life and could lead to serious havoc or pain.
May you join me in your own assessment of the weight and balance in your life and consciously understand the amount of weight you can comfortably carry. Like pilots, one has to determine what areas must be reduced to help ensure that each flight is successful. Less fuel, fewer passengers, or limited cargo should be addressed to reduce weight to stay within performance design limits. Right or wrong, here are the elements that I consider in calculating my own life maximum takeoff weight and how I attempt to balance it in my flight of life, with God’s help.
GROSS WEIGHT LIMITATION: Every morning I weigh myself. I know that my 6-foot frame was designed to carry only so much weight. When it moves up, I then reduce the amount of daily fuel to ensure I get back to the right flight weight. Once the weight gets back to the correct level, then I can enjoy some of those things that can cause it to increase. This has worked for me for 70 years.
SPIRITUAL WELL-BEING: I strive to monitor my spiritual well-being and feelings. All can be well, but if you don’t feel right, it impacts you. I constantly feed my mind positive thoughts, especially when I don’t feel like I want to hear them. I listen to positive messages on my car radio and I read positive message books. I surround myself with positive reading materials wherever I go. I force myself to make both mental and written lists of my many blessings. When I really feel melancholy, it is critical to force myself to get up and go help someone and make them feel appreciated. It’s amazing how quick helping someone can change one’s attitude. I remind myself of the words of the once famous Zig Ziglar, “Your attitude, not your aptitude, will determine your altitude.” I am forever thankful that as a young business person, I took a course by Zig and read his book titled “See You at the Top.” I cannot explain the countless number of times when I didn’t see a way and a door opened! There is no doubt in my mind that this was done by someone much greater than me. I know that I am just the vehicle in which the message or action is being delivered. I remind myself that if God got me this far, he is not leaving, regardless of the outcomes on my life flight. Daily I repeat to myself, “With God all things are possible.”
PHYSICAL WELL-BEING: In my mind, there are no excuses for not taking care of the machine that you have been entrusted to maintain, whether it rolls, flies or walks. There are excuses people use to not take care of themselves and I have tried to use some of them. However, I have determined that I won’t make excuses and that I will do what I can to take care of myself. I’ve had two bouts with cancer, four back surgeries, one shoulder surgery and one knee surgery. As I write this, I could use one more back surgery, another shoulder surgery and some hip work as I attempt to squeeze a little more out of my machine before it is time for a major overhaul. In my mind, to be a good steward, we must take care of what we have been entrusted with. Just as I have positive books around me, there are also weights that get used every day. Just like an airplane, where you are mandated to perform routine and non-routine maintenance to keep it airworthy, if you don’t take care of yourself, you will pay the price!
RELATIONSHIPS: Communication is critical. Pilots must talk to the tower, air traffic controllers, fellow crew members, maintenance personnel and passengers. Effective relationships are critical. It’s the same for us in all aspects of our lives. It seems the happiest people are those who are effective communicators in all aspects of their lives. I am not just referring to talking, but about communicating where there is two-way understanding and empathy. We all must check and calculate our relationships’ weight and balance. Are they healthy and how can we improve them? We need to eliminate those who weigh us down and suck the life out of us. Thrust is an important aspect of flying and we need relationships that don’t weigh us down but rather thrust us forward on our life flight.
PURPOSE: Over the years I have owned aircraft. People would ask me on a pretty day, “Don’t you want to go flying?” I would always answer the same way, “I don’t need to go anywhere.” For me the flight of life has to have purpose. Countless times while flying I have been put in a holding pattern due to bad weather or slower aircraft in front of me. Life without purpose is meaningless and is like being put on hold in flight, wasting fuel and being forced to fly in circles. I think of the cows at my ranch and their purpose, which is not too complex. They eat, they breed, they protect each other, and they die. Sometimes we eat them! You and I weren’t designed to live the life of a cow! We all must understand our “Why?” Once you understand your “Why?” in life, all of the other elements seem to come together with God’s favor. If you want to enjoy your life flight, really understand your “Why?”
DISCIPLINE: To be an effective aviator in life, you must demonstrate personal discipline in all areas. Constantly, I am looking into my own life’s mirror and recalculating my weight and balance and this requires sincere discipline. Remember, the pain of discipline is less than the forever pain of regret.
In closing, remember that in life if you are not careful you can find your controls won’t work when you are trying to take off or you just don’t have enough runway to get off the ground. Before you are airborne, consider where you are headed and how you want to get there. You might want to even consider who you want to ride on your airplane with you. Know that with God and through God, all things are possible. Take it from someone who has pushed beyond many of the limitations of flight and business by the grace of God.
Written by KING AEROSPACE Founder, Jerry Allan King-Echevarria.