Pilot and student pilot community. Share your pilot lessons or aviation stories.

Pressure Altitude – Range Performance (Part One)

in Aircraft Performance

The ability of an aircraft to convert fuel energy into flying distance is one of the most important items of aircraft performance. In flying operations, the problem of efficient range operation of an aircraft appears in two general forms:

  1. To extract the maximum flying distance from a given fuel load
  2. To fly a specified distance with a minimum expenditure of fuel

A common element for each of these operating problems is the specific range; that is, nautical miles (NM) of flying distance versus the amount of fuel consumed. Range must be clearly distinguished from the item of endurance. Range involves consideration of flying distance, while endurance involves consideration of flying time. Thus, it is appropriate to define a separate term, specific endurance.

Fuel flow can be defined in either pounds or gallons. If maximum endurance is desired, the flight condition must provide a minimum fuel flow. In Figure 10-10 at point A the airspeed is low and fuel flow is high. This would occur during ground operations or when taking off and climbing. As airspeed is increased, power requirements decrease due to aerodynamic factors and fuel flow decreases to point B. This is the point of maximum endurance. Beyond this point increases in airspeed come at a cost. Airspeed increases require additional power and fuel flow increases with additional power.

Figure 10-10. Airspeed for maximum endurance.

-Click to Enlarge- Figure 10-10. Airspeed for maximum endurance.

Cruise flight operations for maximum range should be conducted so that the aircraft obtains maximum specific range throughout the flight. The specific range can be defined by the following relationship.

If maximum specific range is desired, the flight condition must provide a maximum of speed per fuel flow. While the peak value of specific range would provide maximum range operation, long-range cruise operation is generally recommended at some slightly higher airspeed. Most long-range cruise operations are conducted at the flight condition that provides 99 percent of the absolute maximum specific range. The advantage of such operation is that one percent of range is traded for three to five percent higher cruise speed. Since the higher cruise speed has a great number of advantages, the small sacrifice of range is a fair bargain. The values of specific range versus speed are affected by three principal variables:

  1. Aircraft gross weight
  2. Altitude
  3. The external aerodynamic configuration of the aircraft.

These are the source of range and endurance operating data included in the performance section of the AFM/POH.


Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: