|| Home | Contact us | About us | Learning to fly | Flight training facilities | Site map & search ||
Groundschool Theory of Flight
Atmospheric density, which decreases with height, affects lift generation and aircraft performance; as does the angle of attack at which the aircraft is flown. In unaccelerated flight there is a relationship between airspeed and angle of attack so, in light aircraft, the airspeed indicator instrument acts as a very limited angle of attack indicator. From this comes the need to establish a safe aircraft flight envelope within which a range of critical and best performance airspeeds are defined.
When in contact with an object (an aircraft wing for example) the static pressure exerts a force on that object at right angles to all the exposed non-porous surfaces; measured in newtons per square metre [pascals] of surface. Air pressure is usually reported as hectopascals [hPa] for meteorological purposes: one hectopascal equals 100 N/m² [or one millibar].
Atmospheric pressure reflects the average density ( i.e. mass per cubic metre), and thus the weight, of the column of air above a given level; so the pressure at a point on the earth’s surface must be greater than the pressure at any height above it, in that column. An increase in surface pressure denotes an increase in mass, not thickness, of the column of air above the surface point. Similarly a decrease in surface pressure denotes a decrease in the mass. The air throughout the column is compressed by the weight of the atmosphere above it, thus the density of a column of air is greatest at the surface and decreases with altitude.
However a warmer air column will be thicker, i.e. extend further upwards, than a cooler air column with the same surface pressure; thus a particular pressure level will be at a higher elevation in the warmer column. Which means that the level in the atmosphere at which any particular pressure occurs is also dependent on the temperature (or thickness) of the air column.
Back to top
There are several gas laws which relate the temperature, pressure, density and volume of air. However the equation most pertinent to aeronautical needs is the equation of state:
r = P/RT where:
r (the Greek letter rho) = air density, expressed in SI units as kg/m³
P = the static air pressure in hectopascals
R = the gas constant = 2.87
T = the air temperature in Kelvin units = °C + 273
By restating the equation of state: P = RrT it can be seen that if density remains constant, pressure increases if temperature increases.
Back to top
Not immediately apparent from the ISA table is that the pressure lapse rate starts at about one hPa per 28 feet, averaging around one hPa per 30 feet up to the 850 hPa level, then slowing to 40 feet per hPa at the 650 hPa level, 50 feet at the 450 hPa level, 75 feet at the 300 hPa level and so on, however, this provides a useful rule of thumb:
Back to top
½ r V² [dynamic pressure] + P [static pressure] = constant
The equation doesn't take viscosity, heat transfer or compressibility effects into account but for operations below 10 000 feet and airflow velocities below 250 knots compressibility effects [see below] can be ignored thus no change in flow density [r] is assumed.
The equation then indicates that, in a free stream flow, if speed [ V ] increases static pressure [ P ] must decrease to maintain constant energy; and the converse if speed decreases static pressure must increase. Or, turning it around, a free stream airflow will accelerate in a favourable pressure gradient and decelerate in an adverse pressure gradient.
[A favourable pressure gradient is one where static pressure decreases with distance downstream, an adverse pressure gradient is one where it increases with distance downstream.]
Bernoulli's doesn't apply in boundary layer flow because the viscosity effects introduce loss of mechanical and thermal energy due to the skin friction.
Another aspect to the equation is that the constant is the stagnation pressure the pressure energy needed to halt the airflow thus it can be written ½ r V² + P = stagnation pressure and the stagnation pressure is the highest pressure in the system. This aspect of Bernoulli's is used in the air speed indicator, as demonstrated below.
Stagnation pressure is also the basis of the parachute wing. Those wings consist of an upper and lower fabric surface enclosing individual front opening cells. In a moving air stream the cells are at stagnation pressure – the highest – and thus form the semi-rigid wing shape which provides the high manoeuvrability of such parachutes.
Continuity equationThere is another equation of aerodynamic interest to us the continuity equation which states that, in a steadily moving airstream, the product of density, velocity and cross sectional area [S] must always be a constant:
r × S × V = constant
If there is no change in density within the flow [which is the norm in the airspeed range of light aircraft, see compressibility effects below] then we can state that:
S × V = constant.
Thus if air flows into a smaller cross section area speed must increase to maintain the constant and Bernoulli states that if speed increases static pressure must decrease; so the velocity of a constricted airstream increases and its static pressure decreases. Note that the S term is used both for cross sectional area and wing surface area.
Both these equations are related to the conservation laws; Bernoulli's to the conservation of energy, the continuity equation to the conservation of mass. We will examine these properties of air further in the aerofoils and wings module.
The venturi effect used in carburettors, the total energy variometer and the airframe mounted venturi that provides suction for some flight instruments is an application of the principles above.
Back to top
We can measure the dynamic pressure with a simple mechanical pressure gauge. Imagine a 6 mm internal diameter aluminium tube positioned under the wing of the moving aircraft, outside the slipstream, so that the open end points forward into undisturbed air flow and the other end of the tube terminates within a spring loaded, flexible capsule similar to that in an aneroid barometer thus the capsule halts the airflow within the tube.
The back pressure, applied by the capsule to halt the flow, must be equal to the stagnation pressure. The capsule is contained within a casing which, in turn, is connected to a static vent supplying the casing with the ambient atmospheric pressure: or, in a lower quality system, the casing may just be open to the atmospheric pressure within the fuselage.
So if we have stagnation or impact pressure, which is dynamic plus static pressure, within the capsule and static pressure surrounding it, the capsule will expand or contract to reflect the changes in dynamic pressure at the mouth of the tube. (The system is a "pitot tube" devised by Henri Pitot (1695-1771): during World War 1 the air speed indicating instruments themselves were called 'pitots'). The capsule movement is mechanically or electrically linked to rotate a pointer on a dial which has been calibrated to indicate airspeed, but, as the instrument cannot determine the density component of the dynamic pressure, the calibration assumes a constant air density of 1.225 kg/m³. This cockpit instrument is then an airspeed indicator or ASI and it displays the indicated airspeed or IAS based on ISA conditions. A bit confusing but take heart for it gets worse!
Note that the dynamic pressure at 1250 N/m² is less than 2% of the static pressure, but applying that dynamic pressure over the 8 m² of wing area and the lift coefficient of 0.4, i.e 1250 × 8 × 0.4, still gives the lift force of 4000 newtons that we calculated in section 1.4 of the basic forces module.
The airspeed we have been discussing to this point is the true airspeed or TAS air distance flown over time. We know that the ASI is calibrated assuming a fixed air density of 1.225 kg/m³ so an accurate ASI will only indicate the true airspeed when the actual environment density is 1.225 kg/m³; that is when the aircraft is operating close to sea level.
From this we can deduce that an accurate ASI will generally under-read. That is the IAS will always be less than the TAS, except in cold conditions at very low altitude, where the air density may be greater than 1.225 kg/m³. For instance, using the equation of state above, if temperature was 3 °C and pressure 1030 hPa, the density would be 1.33 kg/m³.
Density is about 1% greater than ISA for each 3 °C that temperature is below ISA.
Back to top
This will be covered in the aerofoils and lift module, but the sum of it is that, generally, for all angles of attack in unaccelerated flight at a particular weight, there is a corresponding IAS (though it does get a bit fuzzy near CLmax), so that, in the absence of an angle of attack instrument, the ASI can generally* be regarded as an indication of angle of attack if the lift being produced matches aircraft mass. Also all the performance parameters ( the "numbers") for an aircraft best rate of climb, best angle of climb, best glide angle etc require it to be flown at a particular aoa, for that weight, and thus a particular IAS. Or more accurately a particular calibrated airspeed or CAS and that particular CAS does not change with altitude, as TAS does, only with weight.
(*The reason why CAS does not always co-relate to aoa is that when inertia and random displacement forces atmospheric turbulence come into play, aoa may change momentarily without a change in CAS.)
We will use CAS in these notes from here on, rather than IAS, just remember that it is IAS after you have applied corrections for the position and instrument errors occurring at that aoa in that particular aircraft. The measured corrections should be stated on a card placed near the ASI. You should also be aware that position errors may be quite significant, possibly 10 knots or so particularly at high aoa or when the aircraft is slipping.
Below is an airspeed correction table for a particular aircraft in balanced flight i.e. not slipping or skidding. The normal cruise speed for this aircraft is around 95 knots. You can see that in this particular installation the ASI significantly underreads at low speeds and overreads at high speeds.
We do need TAS for navigation and there is a simple mental calculation to determine it from CAS.
compressibility correction chart. The correction value is deducted from CAS to give the compressibility corrected CAS otherwise known as equivalent air speed or EAS.
For most medium speed aircraft it is probable that the compressibility correction value has been built into the IAS CAS airspeed correction table and anyway EAS has no practical application for recreational pilots.
For more information see the notes on compressibility of air flow.
The white arc indicates the flaps operating range starting, at the lower end, from the indicated airspeed, Vso [55 knots], at which the aircraft will stall in the landing configuration with flaps fully extended, and with the throttle closed. The top end of the white arc indicates the maximum speed, Vfe [108 knots], at which the aircraft's flaps can be extended, or remain extended, without causing strain. The bottom end of the green arc indicates the stalling speed of the aircraft, Vs1 [62 knots], with flaps (and landing gear if applicable) up, throttle closed and wing loading = 1g. The top end of the green arc indicates the maximum structural cruise speed, Vno [173 knots]. The green arc in itself indicates the designed range of cruising speeds for the aircraft. The yellow arc indicates a speed range in which the aircraft may be flown, but with caution and only in smooth atmospheric conditions. The red line at the top end of the yellow arc indicates the speed that should never be exceeded, Vne, because of risk of structural damage.
The other red mark at 70 knots, and the blue mark at 88 knots, are of no interest: these markings would only appear on a twin engine aircraft ASI and relate to operations with one engine shut down.
A properly functioning ASI responds rapidly to pressure changes i.e. there is no instrument lag. A slow response put down to instrument lag is most likely solely due to the inertia of the aircraft when attitude in pitch is changed an aircraft takes a little time to accelerate/decelerate to the appropriate airspeed.
Electronic ASIs are also available as single panel instruments or possibly combined with an altimeter function. Note that the electronic systems are still subject to much the same errors as a mechanical system and the IAS has to be corrected for CAS unless there is a means for incorporating some form of compensating table into the software.
Back to top
The vertical airspeed indicatorIn flight it is important to the pilot to know the rate at which the aircraft may be climbing or descending. A simple vertical speed indicator VSI is a pressure gauge that measures the rate of pressure change as an aircraft is climbing or descending. There are two pressure inputs, both from the static vent system; one to each side of a flexible diaphragm or capsule. On the open side there is a normal input which reflects the static pressure change as it occurs. On the closed side the input/output is via a fine capillary tube which slows the equalising pressure change and also the response time of the instrument. The resultant deflection of the diaphragm is magnified via a geared mechanical linkage to a dial pointer which indicates whether the aircraft is maintaining altitude (in which case the pressure on both sides of the diaphragm is equal), climbing or descending and the rate, usually graduated in feet [×100] of altitude per minute. Some form of vibration damping and thermal change compensation is included within the VSI and ASI instruments. ultralight motor gliders and other powered aircraft which have some soaring capability.
For more information on varios and their uses see the article "Basic sailplane instruments".
Back to top
torque of the engine and inertia of the heavy propeller tends to twist the aircraft around the propeller shaft and the consequent roll may increase the aoa of the downgoing wing past the critical aoa. If that happens the wing loses lift, accelerating the roll and the aircraft loses height very rapidly. However torque stalls are probably not applicable to light aircraft; although the torque effect may influence the characteristics of a stall in a climbing turn.
There are other, somewhat simpler ways to calculate the reduction in Vs corresponding to a reduction in weight but what we see above is that a reduction in weight of 800 N, or about 19%, occasions a reduction in Vs of 4 knots, or about 10%. This brings us to the mathematical rule of thumb that when two values are not that far apart in percentage terms, say up to 40%, their square roots are about half that distance apart in percentage terms and because aerodynamic pressure is proportional to V², there are many occasions where the square root of a value is relevant. Which allows a simple, but reasonably accurate, mental calculation:
Thus in the paragraph above, where we referred to unloading the wings with the aircraft banked at 60°, the reduction of weight from 1g down to 0.9g is 10% and so the unloaded stall speed would be about 95% of Vs1. You can also see the same relationship in the preceding table; for bank angles up to 45° the percentage increase in Vs is about half the percentage increase in W/S.
It is appropriate to mention here that not only is the speed at which the stall occurs affected by aircraft weight/wing loading. Some of the other critical performance values are also achieved at a particular aoa, and the associated airspeeds are also changed by a change in weight. The same rule of thumb applies to them. These critical performance values (the "numbers") are: best rate of climb speed, best angle of climb speed, lowest power-off sink rate speed, best glide ratio speed, manoeuvring speed and design cruise speed.
Another aspect we will look at in the aerofoils and wings module is the effect of flaps, but we will just state here that flaps provide an increased CL at all angles of attack consequently allowing a reduction in V², or the stalling speed. In some aircraft extending flaps also increases wing area thus W/S is reduced, a handy technique for high performance military aircraft, manoeuvring at maximum allowed wing loading they can tighten the turn even further without breaking the aircraft.
The final aspect of the stall is the effect of atmospheric turbulence on aoa and this affects 'manoeuvring speed'. We will look at it in the flight envelope section below.
Back to top
Current nomenclatures are generally made up of 2 to 6 letters/numbers with the first being V. Some of these V-speed codes with alternates, and definitions, which may be relevant to light single engine aircraft, including ultralights, and which might appear in flight manuals, pilot's operating handbooks and even sales literature, are shown below. Please note those speeds indicated with open bulleting º are probably only applicable to a few very light aircraft types.
Please be aware that the various 'best' performance speeds mentioned below [rate of climb, angle of climb, cruising range, gliding range etc] merely indicate the midpoint in an airspeed range extending perhaps 1%2% either side of that point. Also the performance speeds are very much affected by the horsepower of the particular engine fitted plus the type of propeller and its pitch setting. If there is no pilot's operating handbook for the particular airframe/engine/propeller configuration then the pilot must calculate the performance speeds by trial and measurement.
Vbr – best range or Vmd – minimum drag – the speed that provides maximum L/D by producing minimum drag and thus the best power to speed ratio. Might utilise about 55% power and is usually flown at the lowest altitude where the throttle is fully open to obtain that speed. Vbr/Vmd decreases as the aircraft weight decreases from MTOW. It's rather boring to fly at that speed, wind conditions have to be taken into account and the fuel saving may not be that significant compared to flying at a speed 10% faster. Also the engine manufacturer's operating recommendations should be followed, but mixture is usually leaned, and minimum rpm set if a constant speed propeller is fitted. Same basic airspeed range as Vy and Vbg [below].
However there is a difference in concept between Vbr and Vmd. Pilots of low powered aircraft are generally not interested in the best power to airspeed ratio in cruise; ground speed achieved per litre is far more significant, so in some conditions Vbr equals Vmd but in headwind conditions Vbr is increased. Look at the diagram from section 1.7 at left and note the pink line that has been drawn from the junction of the vertical and horizontal axes tangential to the power required curve. That line just touches the curve at a position corresponding to the minimum drag airspeed Vmd. Now imagine a 30 knot headwind and start the tangential line from a point along the horizontal axis that is equivalent to 30 knots; that [the blue line] will be tangent to the power required curve at a position corresponding to a higher speed Vbr for a 30 knot headwind. The rule of thumb is to add half the head wind to the basic Vbr, which indicates in this case a Vbr that is about 15 knots greater than Vmd. This is the same principle used by glider pilots to establish their best penetration speed see the speed polar curves for optimum glide speed in the "Coping with emergencies guide".
Vbe – best endurance or Vmp – minimum power – the CAS which gives the greatest airborne time per litre (i.e. least fuel flow per hour and power is proportional to fuel flow) possibly around 80% of Vbr/Vmd, decreasing as the aircraft weight decreases from MTOW. Flight at lowest safe altitude provides best engine performance. Might utilise about 45% power at MTOW. It is the speed for minimum power required for level flight shown in the power required curve above.
Vbe is the speed that might be used when flying a search pattern allowing a proper area survey, or when waiting for ground fog to disperse, but it is possibly uncomfortable to fly for long periods at such a low speed. Also the very low power setting may be inconsistent with good engine handling practise. Carburettor icing may be aggravated. The Vmp designation and airspeed is synonymous with the power-off glide speed Vmp providing the best endurance [i.e. least rate of sink, see below] and in the same speed range as Vx the best angle of climb airspeed.
Vc – the design cruising speed or the optimum cruise speed – the latter being the speed giving the most velocity (i.e greatest distance/time) from a litre of fuel, usually utilising 75% power at MTOW and about 20%30% greater than the maximum L/D speed Vbr above. The speed and power required decrease as the aircraft weight decreases from MTOW. Refer rule of thumb #3.
For most light aircraft Vc is synonymous with Vno. For normal category aircraft FAR Part 23 specifies a minimum design cruising speed (in knots) = 33 Ö W/S. For this calculation the wing loading W/S is expressed in pounds per square foot. Alternatively Vc can be set at 90% of Vh see next. Many minimum ultralights are unable to comply with the FAR part 23 design requirement for a minimum design cruising speed.
º Vh – the maximum level flight indicated speed (CAS) attainable at sea level utilising maximum continuous engine power which, for most engines, will be less than full throttle power, at sea level i.e. the aircraft's maximum continuous speed in level flight.
back to top
| critical airspeeds Va, Vne, Vno, Vs1 and Vso; the certificated load limits and possibly an angle of bank limitation e.g. 60°. For weight-shift aircraft particularly there are pitch limitations e.g. 45° nose up or nose down from the horizontal. Most of the critical airspeeds vary with changes in static weight and in dynamic loading and an extreme cg position may place further limitations on the flight envelope.
The V-n [or V-g] diagram below is a simplified representation of a few aspects of the manoeuvring flight envelope for a 'utility category' aircraft, at MTOW, displaying airspeed along the horizontal axis and the wing loading along the vertical – in units of 'g' – between the usual certificated load limits for such aircraft of +4.4g to 1.8g. The curves represent the accelerated stall speeds of Vs1 × Ög, thus the stall speed with a 4.4g loading is 94 knots, which is usually Va, the design manoeuvring speed at maximum take-off weight. You can see from the curve that at 94 knots the aircraft will stall when the wing loading reaches 4.4g. The aircraft cannot be flown in the regions to the left of the accelerated stall curves because the wings will be stalled.
In section 2.8 above we determined that a 60° banked level turn doubled the normal wing load. If you visualise a horizontal line from the 2g point the interception with the curve will equate with about 65 knots Vs.
The maximum airspeed allowed is Vne but full and abrupt control applications are restricted to speeds at or below Va, so the aircraft can be flown in the green area without limits on control use and it can be operated with due care within the yellow area, but it should not be operated in the pink area. (Please note the green/yellow areas are not related to those green/yellow arcs that appear on the ASI.) If it is inadvertently operated in the red area i.e outside the certificated load limits, or at velocities greater than Vd, structural distortion then failure may result. The more load placed on the wings while the aircraft is operating in the red region the greater the possibility of structural failure. The potential exists to exceed both Vd and maximum load in the pullout from a spiral dive.
Vertical gusts impose loads on the wing structure by inducing rapid, but momentary, changes in aoa with consequent changes in the lift force. The faster the aircraft is moving the greater the gust induced load. FAR 23 has requirements for designers to consider unexpected gust loads. A gust envelope is often represented as an overlay to the V-n diagram, having the effect of diminishing the flight envelope. Vb is developed by the aircraft designer as a recommended turbulence penetration speed in severe turbulence, with varying vertical gust components up to 50 feet/second considered for a light aircraft at cruise speed. However Vb is not specified for ultralights or, indeed, for most light aircraft because there is probably not much difference between Va and Vb.
The flight envelope is considerably reduced if asymmetric manoeuvring loads are applied to the airframe. Such loads might be applied by an aircraft yawing or rolling while recovering from a high speed descent.
There are other attributes that define the envelope resistance to spin and spin recovery for example. Note that the term 'average pilot ability' doesn't imply that those who consider themselves 'above average' can push the envelope without losing control or stressing the airframe.
There is more information on the flight envelope in the safety brief document 'Fly real fast'.
The next module in this Flight Theory Guide discusses altitude and altimeters, but first read the notes below.
back to top
Things that are handy to know
ASI position error. The static vent is an opening, best placed at a position on the aircraft's fuselage (if such exists), where atmospheric static pressure is not influenced by the shape of the fuselage or other aerodynamic disturbances. (Some aircraft may be fitted with a static vent on each side of the fuselage to counter static pressure disturbances caused when the aircraft is slipping/skidding and/ or a switchable alternative static source within the cockpit). The opening is tube connected to the cockpit and supplies the ambient atmospheric pressure, or static pressure, to the three pressure sensing instruments – ASI, VSI and altimeter. The static vent is usually subject to some pressure disturbances at particular aircraft attitudes; as is the pitot tube, but probably to a lesser degree. These disturbances result in position error: for a wing mounted vent the ASI may under-read by 10 knots at stalling aoa. In a sideslip a single fuselage mounted static vent may be subject to dynamic pressure and ASI and VSI readings will consequently be completely misleading. Also the instrument movements will have inbuilt errors, usually occasioned by excessive friction. Obstructions in the tubes water, wasp's nests will cause misreadings.
Consequently position error corrections for the instruments should be noted in the Pilot's Operating Handbook and placarded on the instrument panel. The IAS corrected for instrument and position errors is called the calibrated airspeed or CAS. Either CAS or IAS may be the reference speed in the Pilot's Operating Handbook for aircraft operations, but if the position error corrections are not shown then the ASI system has not been assessed for accuracy. In some poor ASI installations, IAS may be 20% less than CAS at low speeds, but they are usually much the same at normal cruising speeds.
Regulations for type certificated aircraft require that the complete airspeed indicating system of pitot head, static vent, connecting tubes and instrument be tuned so that the IAS reading is within 3% of the true reading over the normal airspeed range from Vs to Vc. However you should suspect that any non-certificated ultralight ASI system will be inaccurate at all speeds and particularly so at high aoa. When comparing published stall speeds between different aircraft types it is wise to determine CAS, as published IAS stall speeds may be downright misleading.
Checking validity of claimed stall speeds. There is a simple method to check the validity of published stall speeds. Practically all ultralight aeroplanes (and excepting those with single surface wings like the Wheeler Scout or weight shift aircraft) use simple, long proven, standard camber aerofoils to form the wings: the lift coefficient attainable at maximum aoa with such wings without flaps is about 1.2 or 1.3 for faster cruising aircraft to 1.5 or 1.6 for the slower, higher lift sections. If equipped with flaps over say half the trailing edge then CLmax might be increased by 0.5 when the flaps are extended to at least 35°. When other high-lift devices [for example full length leading edge slats/slots] are added to the wing then CLmax might increase 0.6. Thus a specialised short take-off and landing aircraft fitted with a high-lift aerofoil, full length leading edge slats and large extended flaps would have a CLmax of [at least] 1.6 + 0.5 + 0.6 = 2.7.
The lift equation at normal stall speed is:
Lift = CLmax × ½rV² × S = weight
CLmax = weight / (½rV² × S)
We can use that equation to check the validity of stall speed claims if we know the maximum take-off weight [MTOW] and the wing area [S]. Let's say a supplier claims that an aircraft, lacking any high-lift devices, has a stall speed of 30 knots. The MTOW is 450 kg and the wing area is 12 m².
In the equation the weight must be expressed in newtons – so multiply kg × 10 = 4500 N; and the stall speed must be expressed in metres per second – so just halve the velocity in knots = 15 m/s: the air density used must be the ISA msl density = 1.225 kg/m³.
Thus CLmax = 4500 / (0.5 × 1.225 × 15 × 15 × 12) = 2.7
A lift coefficient of 2.7 is very much higher than that achievable without high-lift devices so you would conclude that the claimed stall speed is nonsense, a figure of 38 knots is probably closer to the mark.
Conversely you can do a rough approximation of stall speeds using the following simplified formulae if you  know the wing loading in kilograms per square metre or in pounds per square foot and  can estimate CLmax with flaps stowed or fully extended.
Stall speed [knots] = 7.8 times square root (wing loading in kg/m² divided by CLmax)
Stall speed [knots] = 17.2 times square root (wing loading in lb/ft² divided by CLmax)
Using our previous example of a lightly loaded Jabiru with a mass of 340 kg [748 lb], wing area of 7.9 m² [85 ft²] thus wing loading = 43 kg/m² [8.8 lb/ft²] and estimating CLmax with flaps fully extended as 2.0 then:
estimated stall speed = 7.8 × square root (43/2) = 7.8 × 4.64 = 36 knots
or estimated stall speed = 17.2 × square root (8.8/2) = 17.2 × 2.1 = 36 knots
Stuff you don't need to know
The tropopause marks the boundary between the two lower layers of the atmosphere the troposphere, and above it, the stratosphere. The height of the tropopause varies daily, seasonally, and latitudinally; being at about 28 000 feet at the poles and perhaps 55 000 feet at the equator. The significant difference between the troposphere and the stratosphere is that air temperature decreases steadily with height in the former, but initially remains constant then increases steadily with height in the stratosphere, until the stratopause at about 50 km. The stratosphere contains very little water vapour and is much more stable than the troposphere. The ozone layer is within the stratosphere.
Boyle’s law:- at a constant temperature the volume (V) of a given mass of gas is inversely proportional to the pressure (P) upon the gas. i.e. PV = constant.
The pressure law:- at a constant volume the pressure is directly proportional to temperature (T) in Kelvin units.
Charles’ law:- at a constant pressure gases expand by about 1/273 of their volume, at 273 K, for each one kelvin rise in temperature, i.e the volume of a given mass of gas at constant pressure is directly proportional to the absolute temperature.
For one mole of gas the preceding laws are combined in the gas equation PV = RT where R = the gas constant = 2.87 when P is expressed in hectopascals. Ordinary gases do not behave exactly in accordance with the gas laws.
The change in altitude for each one hPa change in pressure can be roughly calculated from the absolute temperature and the pressure at the level using the equation:=96T/P feet.
The term 'burble' also refers to the atmospheric wake of an object. Skydivers refer to their wake as 'the burble' while the disturbed airflow and exhaust gases behind a fast-moving aircraft carrier was (probably still is) known to pilots as 'the burble'.
Groundschool Flight Theory Guide modules
| Flight theory contents | 1. Basic forces | 1a. Manoeuvring forces | [2. Airspeed & air properties] |
| 3. Altitude & altimeters | 4. Aerofoils & wings | 5. Engine & propeller performance | 6. Tailplane surfaces |
| 7. Stability | 8. Control | 9. Weight & balance | 10. Weight shift control | 11. Take-off considerations |
| 12. Circuit & landing | 13. Flight at excessive speed | 14. Safety: control loss in turns |
| Operations at non-controlled airfields | Safety during take-off & landing |
Copyright © 20002007 John Brandon [contact information]