How Heavy Are Airplanes? (Average Airplane Weight)

Aircraft are of different types and, hence, have different measurements. 

For example, Antonov AN-225 is a load carrier, and it weighs 630,000 pounds.

The two major passenger airliners, however, the Airbus A320 and the Boeing 737, weigh 93,900 (42,600kg) pounds and 98,500 (44,700 kg) pounds, respectively.

It doesn’t amaze us anymore that these heavy machines fly so high.

Rather, how much matter we humans have managed to put in the skies today is the shocking part. 

And, surprisingly, an airplane can fly carrying twice its weight, which is hard to believe considering its massive size.

But, the physics behind this phenomenon has to do with the upward push of air moving under the wings, resulting in less pressure on the top.

Antonov AN-225 is the biggest and heaviest plane in the world, weighing almost 630,000 pounds.

But, what’s more surprising is how much it can hold: 1.4 million pounds.  

Some Famous Aircraft and their Weights: Top 6 Examples 

There are two different weights that people can use to figure out how much a passenger plane weighs.  

MEW is the empty weight and tells you how much a plane weighs without a load. MTOW, on the other hand, is the maximum amount a certain plane can handle when it reaches the air. 

Below is a list of some of the most recognizable aircraft and their MEW and MTOW weights. 

Aircraft NameEmpty Weight OR MEWTake-off Weight or MTOW
Boeing 747 485,300 pounds 735,000 pounds
Airbus A340 370,000 pounds 606,000 pounds
Airbus A320 93,900 pounds 170,000 pounds
Antonov AN-225 628,000 pounds 1,411,000 pounds
Airbus A380 610,700 pounds 1,265,000 pounds
Boeing 737 98,500 pounds 300,000 pounds

Overall, the average weight of an aircraft is about 176,000 pounds because planes that weigh too much more than this amount can cause a lot of wake turbulence which can disrupt other pilots. 

On the other hand, a small plane can weigh as little as 600 pounds. 

How Much Does a Modern Passenger Airplane Weigh?

For most international travel, only two passenger airliners dominate. And they are the Boeing 737 and the Airbus A320.

Boeing 737 and Airbus A320 are slightly bigger than an average passenger aircraft weighing 98,500 (44700 kg) pounds and 93,900 (42600kg) pounds, respectively. These huge airplanes stay in the air because of the weight’s opposing force, lift, according to Bernoulli’s principle. 

Airbus A320 is a relatively new release made by Airbus when Airbus A380 became less popular among the airlines. The A320 has a passenger capacity of 170 people and is the most high-tech and fuel-efficient aircraft ever made.

On the other hand, the Boeing 737 has been around for almost forty years, but Boeing has been renewing this same aircraft to make it more attractive to the airlines. 

The 737 has a passenger limit of 188 people, which is a little more than the A320. But it is not as fuel-efficient, maybe because the A320 has Rolls-Royce engines.

Which is the Heaviest Modern Passenger Airliner?

Antonov AN-225 is a load carrier made for carrying sections of trains and airplane parts. So, its size and load capacity make sense. 

But how much do passenger airplanes weigh?

The heaviest modern passenger airliners are the Boeing 747 and the Airbus A380. Among these, the A380 is the heaviest aircraft, with a Manufacturer’s Empty Weight (MEW) of 610,700 pounds. 

Also, the A380 can carry twice its own weight: 1.2 million pounds! And, this plane travels faster than most other passenger planes. 

Over 900 people can travel on the A380 because there are three decks or floors, with two reserved for passengers and one for cargo and luggage. But, of course, a smaller load can take off weight. 

How are Aircraft Weights Measured?

In most cases, the Jack Type Scale System measures plane weight. 

When weighing aircraft, they first use machines to lift the plane, using jacks from all three wheel locations. The jacks then use a computer to gain the most accurate results.

But with large aircraft, such as the Airbus A380 or the Antonov AN-225, lifting becomes challenging. In that case, they must use tow trucks to place the plane atop load ramps.

The ramps contain load cells that produce a minor voltage when a weighty plane pushes the ramp down. The greater the ramp’s downward displacement, the more voltage comes from the load cells, which is how it determines the plane’s weight. 

Terminology for Weighing Aircraft

Below are a few terms that describe how people weigh planes. These measurements are essential because an airplane can take on different weights depending on how the airline measures it. 

Fuel’s Weight

Pilots must know how much fuel they have to ensure they have enough fuel. On a normal passenger airliner, the propellant weight makes up over 40% of the aircraft’s weight.

Zero-Fuel Weight (ZFW)

ZFW is the sum weight of all contents, including the unusable fuel, cargo, passengers, engine oils, and other fluids but excluding the weight of usable propellant.

Zero-fuel weight is a value that doesn’t change during the flight because it excludes the weight of the fuel.

Also, a reminder, unusable fuel is the fuel not accessible by the engine because it is inside unusable parts of the fuel tank. 

Manufacturer’s Empty Weight (MEW)

As the name suggests, the MEW is the weight of the plane just after production. This measurement includes the furniture, the weight of the structure and engines, and additional equipment.

MEW doesn’t include the weight of passengers, luggage, and usable fuel.

Operating Empty Weight (OEW)

OEW includes the weight of engines, unusable fuel, brake fluids, and the flight crew.

So, the operating empty weight is similar to the ZFW but doesn’t include cargo and passengers.

Maximum Payload

Maximum payload is the combined weight of passengers, cargo, and extra fuel that an aircraft can manage on takeoff. 

Maximum Takeoff Weight (MTOW)

Maximum takeoff weight is the maximum weight of everything on the aircraft under which the pilot can take flight or take off. This measurement includes usable and unusable fuel, payload, and everything the plane has on board when it flies. 

For example, a Boeing 747-8 has an MTOW of 487.5 tons. Thus, anything over this amount is too much to safely take off in a Boeing 747. 

This figure helps estimate the maximum weight load an aircraft can carry when it’s flying.

MTOW doesn’t remain constant during the flight as the fuel gets used up and the weight varies.

Maximum Landing Weight (MLW) of the Aircraft

Just because an aircraft has successfully taken off at its maximum takeoff weight limit, that doesn’t mean it can land with the same weight too. 

Aircraft manufacturers take certain measurements to calculate the maximum landing weight for an airplane.

And the airplane must not exceed the MLW limit as it can result in the plane’s crashing. Pilots often dump jet fuel to decrease the aircraft’s weight for a safe landing.

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