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Pressure Altitude – Range Performance (Part Three)

in Aircraft Performance

The effect of altitude on the range of a propeller-driven aircraft is illustrated in Figure 10-12. A flight conducted at high altitude has a greater true airspeed (TAS), and the power required is proportionately greater than when conducted at sea level. The drag of the aircraft at altitude is the same as the drag at sea level, but the higher TAS causes a proportionately greater power required. NOTE: The straight line that is tangent to the sea level power curve is also tangent to the altitude power curve.


Figure 10-12. Effect of altitude on range.

Figure 10-12. Effect of altitude on range.

The effect of altitude on specific range also can be appreciated from the previous relationships. If a change in altitude causes identical changes in speed and power required, the proportion of speed to power required would be unchanged. The fact implies that the specific range of a propeller-driven aircraft would be unaffected by altitude. Actually, this is true to the extent that specific fuel consumption and propeller efficiency are the principal factors that could cause a variation of specific range with altitude. If compressibility effects are negligible, any variation of specific range with altitude is strictly a function of engine/propeller performance.

An aircraft equipped with a reciprocating engine will experience very little, if any, variation of specific range up to its absolute altitude. There is negligible variation of brake specific fuel consumption for values of brake horsepower below the maximum cruise power rating of the engine that is the lean range of engine operation. Thus, an increase in altitude will produce a decrease in specific range only when the increased power requirement exceeds the maximum cruise power rating of the engine. One advantage of supercharging is that the cruise power may be maintained at high altitude, and the aircraft may achieve the range at high altitude with the corresponding increase in TAS. The principal differences in the high altitude cruise and low altitude cruise are the TAS and climb fuel requirements.

 

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