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Home > Flying the Plane > Can an aircraft take off if all passengers are seated on the left of the plane and no one on the right side? Will it flip over?
Can an aircraft take off if all passengers are seated on the left of the plane and no one on the right side? Will it flip over?
Flying - Flying the Plane
Sunday, 22 April 2012 14:08

Mass and Balance on a Plane

Hi Capt Lim,

I would like to ask, can an aircraft take off if all passengers are seated on the left of the aircraft and no one is sitting on the right? (E.g. Airbus A320). Will it flip over when it takes off?

Thank You.

KB Tan

Hi KB,

Just like a boat, a plane would be heavy on the left if all the passengers are seated on the left side. Hence all passengers are usually evenly distributed in the cabin before take-off or landing for a stable flight.

However, there is a slight difference between a boat and a plane. Since plane has wings, it is more stable laterally. According to the notes regarding fuel imbalance on an A320, with full tank on the left side (about 9300 kg), the maximum allowable imbalance is 1500 kg or 3306 lbs. At around 75 kg per passenger, that is about 20 passengers. It states that, in exceptional conditions, the plane is fully controllable in all phases of flight.

In my opinion, since the weight of passengers inside the aircraft cabin (all sitting on the left side) is very close to the centre of gravity (CG), it is possible for the pilot to control the left heavy wing with ailerons and the plane may not flip over.

A good illustration is to look at a small plane. A single pilot flying a light plane always sit on one side and it has no effect on the controllability of the plane.
Perhaps, we need the Myth Busters to prove this theory!

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Aer Lingus Airbus A320 taking off

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Massa and balance on a plane
In pactical terms, a commercial airplane never takes off with all passengers on the same side. Taffic agents distribute them at the moment they are checking in.
luiz sidney b cunha , 23 Aug, 2014

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