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High Speed Flight – Mach Buffet Boundaries

in Aerodynamics

Mach buffet is a function of the speed of the airflow over the wing—not necessarily the speed of the aircraft. Any time that too great a lift demand is made on the wing, whether from too fast an airspeed or from too high an AOA near the MMO, the “high-speed” buffet occurs. There are also occasions when the mach buffet can be experienced at much lower speeds known as the “low-speed Mach buffet.”


An aircraft flown at a speed too slow for its weight and altitude necessitating a high AOA is the most likely situation

to cause a low-speed Mach buffet. This very high AOA has the effect of increasing airflow velocity over the upper surface of the wing until the same effects of the shock waves and buffet occur as in the high-speed buffet situation. The AOA of the wing has the greatest effect on inducing the Mach buffet at either the high-speed or low-speed boundaries for the aircraft. The conditions that increase the AOA, the speed of the airflow over the wing, and chances of Mach buffet are:

  • High altitudes—the higher an aircraft flies, the thinner the air and the greater the AOA required to produce the lift needed to maintain level flight.
  • Heavy weights—the heavier the aircraft, the greater the lift required of the wing, and all other things being equal, the greater the AOA.
  • G loading—an increase in the G loading on the aircraft has the same effect as increasing the weight of the aircraft. Whether the increase in G forces is caused by turns, rough control usage, or turbulence, the effect of increasing the wing’s AOA is the same.

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