December 2008 Issue

An Airspeed For All Occasions

Picking the right airspeed and pinning it right where you want it is a simple matter of selecting a power setting and pitch attitude.

At times during my training it often seemed the phrase most often uttered by the instructor was, "Watch your airspeed," or its more-assertive variant, "Mind your speed." If I didn’t respond immediately, he continued his urgings, which usually escalating in volume and octave. That I eventually figured it out is evidenced by a piece of FAA paper in my pocket. And that was just the primary training. In talks with other many fellow aviators, we found a shared memory of instrument instructors who seemed almost sadistic in their ability to distract us with airspeed warnings when all we wanted to do was center the needles or roll out on the correct heading. We all recalled the endless grilling as our instructors drilled us on our ability to quote, hit and hold target speeds. Of course, by the time we’d hit instrument training, we all understood and absorbed the message—one which remains clear as crystal years later: Managing all of the multiple, simultaneous demands of flying becomes considerably easier once I could instinctively and automatically manage power and pitch to achieve the correct airspeed for each condition.

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