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Load Planning

These pages describe what you will learn in the Load Planners Course. You can use the following bookmarks and links to navigate to the subject you are interested in.

Detailed Information on AMC Aircraft

Aircraft Weight and Balance

Center of Balance (CB) is the point at which the aircraft balances, and is a combination of where the empty plane's basic weight, it's fuel, and the cargo weight is centered. Calculating aircraft center of balance is similar to determining the CB of multi-axle vehicles: you average the distance and weight of all pieces of cargo from a fixed reference point, usually near the nose of the aircraft. Aircraft flight performance depends on the proper location of CB; optimally, the cargo CB point is near the wing root. We often use a procedure called pyramid loading, where 50% of the cargo weight is placed on either side of the aircraft's optimum CB. The heaviest cargo should be loaded in the middle and the lightest cargo farther away, since distance forward or aft of this point affects the moment of each piece of cargo (ref AMCP 36-1, p. 88).

Load Planning Principles

Load planning results in several advantages:

  • Units can know in advance whether an aircraft can carry a proposed load.
  • Load planning identifies the exact number of aircraft required to accomplish a particular mission.
  • Load planning identifies the required loading aids (MHE) in advance so that they can be made available, keeping aircraft ground time to a minimum.
  • Load planning helps the unit establish the priority for the movement of cargo and personnel (p. 101).

The majority of the course is spent in load planning, where students are assigned increasingly difficult equipment loads for a wide variety of aircraft. Students learn the particular cargo characteristics of all AMC aircraft (C-130, C-141B, C-5, C-17, KC-135, KC-10), and practice planning loads where they must overcome aircraft limitations and piece cargo loads like a puzzle.

The course culminates in a number of large deployment exercises loadplanning an entire unit's equipment into several aircraft.

Aircraft Characteristics

An important part of the class is learning the characteristics of AMC aircraft. Each of the aircraft pages below contains a synopsis of the aircraft characteristics airlift planners should know. A nice rule of thumb is to use aircraft substitution based on equivalent C-141 loads (around 50,000 pounds): a C-130 or KC-135 can carry 1/3 as much as a C-141, a KC-10 or C-17 can carry 2 to 2 1/2 times as much, and a C-5 can carry 3 times as much as a C-141. The Summary Table also provides a nice comparison of cargo capabilities.

Description of AMC Aircraft

Click on the following links to see the following AMC aircraft descriptions and cargo capabilities.


The manifest is an inventory of what is aboard the aircraft. The moving unit will accomplish the manifest before the delivery of loads to the marshalling point. The manifest is designed to include all pieces of information required by the various agencies involved in airlift (p. 107).


You receive a tremendous amount of information during this course. If you return to your unit and put what you learn to work, you will be able to mobilize and deploy on any Air Force airlift aircraft. This will make it possible for your unit to go anywhere in the world on your two week annual tour, or lead the pack if your country calls.