What Is Maximum Takeoff Weight in Aviation?

Whether you’re a pilot, an aviation mechanic, or you simply enjoy learning about airplanes, you’ve probably heard of maximum takeoff weight (MTOW). It’s an important specification to which all airplanes must adhere. For a better understanding of MTOW in aviation and why it’s important, keep reading.

Overview of MTOW

MTOW is the maximum weight for which an airplane has been certified to take off. The higher an airplane’s MTOW, the heavier it can weigh when taking off. MTOW represents the maximum weight at which a pilot is allowed to take off due to structural or other limits.

Different airplanes have different MTOWs. The Boeing 737 has an MTOW of about 203,000 pounds, whereas the Airbus A380 has an MTOW of about 1.2 million pounds. To safely take off, the total weight of an airplane must stay below its MTOW.

The total weight of an airplane includes the following:

  • Operating empty weight
  • Passengers
  • Cargo
  • Fuel

Why MTOW Is Important

If an airplane exceeds its MTOW, it will no longer be deemed airworthy. ATC will typically prohibit the pilot or pilots from taking off for safety reasons.

MTOWs are typically assigned during the testing of airplanes. Engineers will consider the airplane’s structural design and limitations. Using this information, they will assign an MTOW to the airplane. As long as the airplane’s actual weight is below its MTOW, the airplane can safely take off. If the airplane’s actual weight exceeds its MTOW, on the other hand, it will be too heavy to safely take off.

MTOW is important for regulatory compliance. Aviation authorities, such as the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), have strict requirements. They require airlines and pilots to adhere to MTOW to maintain airworthiness certification.

Factors That Affect MTOW

The structural design of an airplane will affect its MTOW. Airplanes designed with strong and durable materials will typically have a higher MTOW than those designed with weaker, less durable materials.

The type of engine or engines an airplane has will affect its MTOW. Engines, of course, generate propulsion, which allows airplanes to take off and achieve flight. Therefore, a powerful engine can increase an airplane’s MTOW.

In Conclusion

MTOW is a design specification that represents the maximum weight an airplane can safely take off. It encompasses a range of factors, such as structural design and engine performance. With a high MTOW, airplanes can hold more passengers and cargo when taking off.

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