Basic Flight Maneuvers

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Buffalo Six
Posts: 1489
Joined: 11 Jul 2002, 17:26
Location: Wichita KS

Basic Flight Maneuvers

Post by Buffalo Six »

After last nights mission and listening to some of the problems people were having, I have decided to post some items that may help you guys get more out of the planes we fly.

This is from the flight training section over at the 352nd VFG that I also am flying with. Rambling Jack is the training guy and he's a current charter pilot flying in Nevada. Its good advice and has helped me get more out of the planes. The following was written by him.


Basic Flight Maneuvers – Slow Flight, Minimum Controllable Airspeed, and Stalls


Slow flight can be defined as flight at any airspeed that is less than cruise airspeed. With regards to the single-seat fighter, that represents a considerable range of airspeeds. We will primarily concern ourselves with the airspeeds at the lower end of the speed range. Maneuvering during slow flight demonstrates the flight characteristics and degree of controllability of an airplane at different speeds. At least twice during every successful flight you must involve yourself with slow flight. During takeoff you must successfully maneuver the aircraft at slow speeds in your attempt to become airborne and fulfill your mission. After a successful mission, you must once again maneuver the aircraft at slow speeds as you attempt a landing.


Minimum controllable airspeed can be defined as the minimum steady flight speed at which the airplane is controllable. This speed varies with aircraft configuration and weight. For example, with the gear and flaps down an aircraft will have a minimum controllable speed often referred to as Vso. This is generally the slowest flight speed of a particular aircraft. Any attempt to reduce the airspeed below this figure, with gear and flaps extended, would result in a stall. The same aircraft configured with the gear and flaps up would have a minimum controllable speed referred to as Vs. Because flaps are designed to lower the landing speed of an aircraft, Vso will always be lower than Vs.


An airplane will fly as long as the wing is creating sufficient lift to counteract the load imposed on it. When the lift is completely lost, the airplane stalls.

Remember, the direct cause of every stall is an excessive angle of attack. There are any number of flight maneuvers which may produce an increase in the angle of attack, but the stall does not occur until the critical angle of attack is exceeded.

It must be emphasized that the stalling speed of a particular airplane is not a fixed value for all flight situations. However, a given airplane will always stall at the same angle of attack regardless of airspeed, weight, load factor, or density altitude. Each airplane has a particular angle of attack where the airflow separates from the upper surface of the wing and the stall occurs. This critical angle of attack varies from 16° to 20° depending on the airplane’s design. But each airplane has only one specific angle of attack where the stall occurs.

In order to fully understand the relationship between slow flight, minimum controllable airspeed and stalls, you must first understand the following:

Relative Wind: The relative wind for an airplane in flight flows in a direction parallel with and opposite to the direction of flight; therefore, the actual flight path of the airplane determines the direction of the relative wind.

Angle of attack:The angle that is formed between the chord line of an airfoil and the direction the relative wind strikes the airfoil.

Chord Line: A line that bisects an airfoil extending from the trailing edge of the airfoil to the leading edge of the airfoil.

Lift: Lift always acts in a direction perpendicular to the relative wind. The fact is that lift is referenced to the wing, not to the Earth’s surface. Lift is not always “up.â€
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