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Pressure Altitude

in Aircraft Performance

Pressure altitude is the height above the standard datum plane (SDP). The aircraft altimeter is essentially a sensitive barometer calibrated to indicate altitude in the standard atmosphere. If the altimeter is set for 29.92 “Hg SDP, the altitude indicated is the pressure altitude—the altitude in the standard atmosphere corresponding to the sensed pressure.

The SDP is a theoretical level where the pressure of the atmosphere is 29.92 “Hg and the weight of air is 14.7 psi. As atmospheric pressure changes, the SDP may be below, at, or above sea level. Pressure altitude is important as a basis for determining aircraft performance, as well as for assigning flight levels to aircraft operating at above 18,000 feet.


The pressure altitude can be determined by either of two methods:

  1. By setting the barometric scale of the altimeter to 29.92 “Hg and reading the indicated altitude, or
  2. By applying a correction factor to the indicated altitude according to the reported “altimeter setting.”

 

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