Temorary Ballast for Utility Category C.G. Question

In 18 years of instructing, I haven't had this issue arise before…

I have a client who would like to use his 1958 C-172 for commercial flight training. The “Owner's Manual” and cockpit placard stipulate that commercial maneuvers - chandelles, lazy eights, accelerated stalls, steep turns, etc. can only be conducted in this aircraft using the utility category weight and C.G. limits. The client is heavy.  In order to meet the C.G. requirements in the normal category, he has 58 lb of removable weight (containers of “kitty litter” and water) located in the baggage compartment, which he removes when flying with rear seat passengers.    However, the placards and Owner's Manual state that no baggage in the baggage area AND no baggageor passengers in the rear seat are allowed in the utility category.  My question is:

Would plastic containers of sand or water, clearly labeled “TEMPORARY BALLAST” be considered “baggage” if stowed in the baggage compartment or rear seat?  I'd prefer using the rear seat even though more weight would be needed because we could use the seat belts to secure it – there are no tie-down anchor points in the baggage compartment and I'm uncomfortable “jury-rigging” restraints there.  My initial determination was that the placard / Owner's Manual language would preclude using ballast, but the client would like independent confirmation.  The local FSDO declined to state an opinion…

Has anyone encountered this problem?  If so, how did you deal with it?

W.E.Dobson CFI/CFII (AOPA #01405812)

2 Replies
1372 Posts

First, the Airworthiness Inspector you spoke to is being obstinate.  It's their job to either provide or obtain an answer to airworthiness questions like this.  Talk to the FSDO Manager about getting this necessary answer.  You can also call Cessna Technical Support at (844) 448-9828 to get their “official” answer as the type certificate holder.

Beyond that, my opinion is that it's not an issue of whether it's “baggage” or “ballast”, but rather the strength of the compartment floor in relation to the higher permitted g-load when operated in the Utility category.  As such, I'd not fly the airplane in the Utility category with anything at all back there, no matter what you call it.


There are a few separate issues involved here.

The first is whether one can operate contrary to the limitations stated in the Airplane Flight Manual and placards. 14 CFR 91.9 explicitly prohibits operating an aircraft contrary to the limitations.

Second, what are the limitations? I have POHs for a 172L, 172N, 172R and 172S.  The N, R & S manuals all list chandelles, lazy eights, stalls & steep turns as appropriate for both Normal and Utility category operations.  The L model (1966) POH contains a statement in the Limitations section that “Spins and aerobatic maneuvers are not permitted in normal category airplanes in compliance with these regulations (CAR 3).” It does allow for performing the maneuvers in the Utility category.  I suspect that the language for your student’s 1958 model is similar.  The Type Certificate Data Sheet (TCDS) shows that a 1958 model is the earliest model for the 172.  There is no letter suffix.  The TCDS, under Note 2 for the 172 model, show the placards that must be installed. One addresses Normal vs. Utility category operations.  In prohibits acrobatic maneuvers in the Normal category.  It allows Chandelles, Lazy eights, Steep turns, Spins & Stalls (all of which it refers to as acrobatic maneuvers) in the Utility category.

Third, the weight issue.  I had a student many years ago who weighed 350#. We had to use ballast in the baggage compartment of the Warrior to stay within the CG envelope.  He was training for a Private certificate, so there was no issue with the maneuvers.  The TCDS lists a maximum weigh of 1950# for Utility category.  I don’t know the numbers for your student’s airplane, but I have data for a 172H.  The empty weight is 1470#.  1950 – 1470 leaves 480#.  If I use a weigh of 300# for your student, that leaves 180#.  If you weigh 180#, you would not be able to take any fuel.  This is not even considering the ballast.

Fourth, do call Cessna.  But, realize that unless they change the POH for your model aircraft and the placards that are referenced in it and the TCDS, the limitations remain and you may not operate contrary to them.

Last, the FSDO Inspector issue. I would think you would have spoken to an Operations inspector, rather than an Airworthiness inspector.  The question at hand is whether or not you can operate the airplane, as you have described.  The regulation is clear.  Referring to Order 8900.1 Volume 1, Chapter 3, Section 1, there is no mention that providing or obtaining answers to questions is a responsibility of an Inspector. I was, until recently, an Operations inspector.  While not a stated responsibility, I did always try to direct people to the appropriate regulatory or policy that would address any questions.  I had 8 Part 135 charter operators, 10 Part 137 Ag operators, 4 Part 133 External load operators and numerous Part 91 Corporate operators to oversee.  Add to that accident investigations, Pilot Deviations (many more now that ADS-B allows towers to track airplanes that they couldn’t previously see with binoculars) and complaint calls for low flying Ag planes and helicopters.  It doesn’t leave a lot of leftover time to chase down answers. Also, we are trained that we may not offer legal interpretations.  Many offices are now shorthanded.  When I was hired in 2007, my office had 10 Operations inspectors, of which 6 were Principal Operations inspectors, who can manage operators.  When I left in November, they now have 6 Operations inspectors, of which 3 were Principal inspectors.  There has been no corresponding decrease in the number of operators that are assigned to the office.