Weight and balance limits of aircraft are crucial for ensuring flight safety. Incorrect weight distribution significantly impacts flight performance, and neglecting or performing incorrect preflight calculations can have fatal consequences. From 2008 to 2016, approximately 136 general aviation accidents were likely caused by pilots failing to complete or conduct preflight performance calculations for weight and balance. About one-third of these accidents led to fatalities for pilots and/or passengers1. The pilot in command holds the responsibility for aircraft loading, crew, passengers, baggage/cargo, fuel, and ensuring compliance with center of gravity limits and maximum weight restrictions.

With the adoption of Precision Scheduled Railroading (PSR), Class One railroads are operating longer trains. The arrangement of cars, whether empty or loaded, short or long, impacts a train’s ability to safely navigate the tracks. Poorly assembled trains elevate the risk of derailments. Longer trains enable fewer employees and locomotives to complete a trip compared to running multiple shorter trains. This reduction in equipment needs improves system velocity and lowers the operating ratio. Although distributed power units and dynamic braking enhance train handling, they do not rectify human errors in navigating challenging terrain or poorly assembled trains. Longer trains are more prone to derailments when there is improper weight distribution, leading to the train separating on inclines or curves2, or empty cars derailing due to trailing weight.

Mechanical issues with equipment are also a significant concern. Rail operators oversee the composition of trains and the placement of trackside “hot box” detectors3. Initial analysis of the recent Norfolk Southern East Palestine incident indicates that it was caused by an overheated wheel bearing. The East Palestine derailment could have been prevented if Norfolk Southern had placed hotbox detectors closer together. The Federal Government lacks regulations mandating the use of temperature detectors along tracks, as well as guidelines for their placement, inspection, and maintenance. Following the East Palestine derailment, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) released its initial advisory, urging railroads to enhance the positioning of trackside safety detectors. The American Association of Railroads (AAR) interchange rules outline the responsibilities regarding equipment inspection and necessary “running” repairs before railcars are interchanged. When cars go through interchange, the railcar owner bears the financial responsibility for repairs carried out by a railroad’s “running repair agent”. These repairs are invoiced at AAR labor rates4, which are notably higher than rates in private contract shops.

In aviation, new technologies often carry inherent risks. Pratt & Whitney’s PW1000G geared turbofan engine is a case in point, with many units requiring retrofits. The time on wing before overhauls is approximately 10,000 hours, roughly half the duration of existing Pratt & Whitney V2500 engines.

Effectively managing investment risk for Aero and Railcar portfolios entails considerations beyond lessee credit, lease term(s), pricing, and equipment service lives. The operations and maintenance practices of lessees can generate undesirable publicity and lead to intricate legal proceedings. Collaborate with an investment management team that possesses a deep understanding of these risks. Call RESIDCO.

Glenn Davis, 312-635-3161


  1. NTSB Safety Alert 72 / Minding Weight, Maintaining Balance
  2. BNSF Railway Train Derailment and Subsequent Train Collision, Release of Hazardous Materials, and Fire
  3. RRD23MR005 East Palestine OH Prelim
  4. AAR Interchange Rules
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