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Straight and Level Flight – Pitch Control – VSI Tape

in Airplane Basic Flight Maneuvers - Electronic Flight Display

The VSI tape provides for an indirect indication of pitch attitude and gives the pilot a more immediate indication of a pending altitude deviation. In addition to trend information, the vertical speed also gives a rate indication. By using the VSI tape in conjunction with the altitude trend tape, a pilot has a better understanding of how much of a correction needs to be made. With practice, the pilot will learn the performance of a particular aircraft and know how much pitch change is required in order to correct for a specific rate indication.

Unlike older analog VSIs, new glass panel displays have instantaneous VSIs. Older units had a lag designed into the system that was utilized to indicate rate information. The new glass panel displays utilize a digital air data computer that does not indicate a lag. Altitude changes are shown immediately and can be corrected for quickly.

The VSI tape should be used to assist in determining what pitch changes are necessary to return to the desired altitude. A good rule of thumb is to use a vertical speed rate of change that is double the altitude deviation. However, at no time should the rate of change be more than the optimum rate of climb or descent for the specific aircraft being flown. For example, if the altitude is off by 200 feet from the desired altitude, then a 400 feet per minute (fpm) rate of change would be sufficient to get the aircraft back to the original altitude. If the altitude has changed by 700 feet, then doubling that would necessitate a 1,400 fpm change. Most aircraft are not capable of that, so restrict changes to no more than optimum climb and descent. An optimum rate of change would vary between 500 and 1,000 fpm.

One error the instrument pilot encounters is overcontrolling. Overcontrolling occurs when a deviation of more than 200 fpm is indicated over the optimum rate of change. For example, an altitude deviation of 200 feet is indicated on the altimeter, a vertical speed rate of 400 feet should be indicated on the gauge. If the vertical speed rate showed 600 fpm (200 more than optimum), the pilot would be overcontrolling the aircraft.

When returning to altitude, the primary pitch instrument is the VSI tape. If any deviation from the desired vertical speed is indicated, make the appropriate pitch change using the attitude indicator.

As the aircraft approaches the target altitude, the vertical speed rate can be slowed in order to capture the altitude in a more stabilized fashion. Normally within 10 percent of the rate of climb or descent from the target altitude, begin to slow the vertical speed rate in order to level off at the target altitude. This allows the pilot to level at the desired altitude without rapid control inputs or experiencing discomfort due to G-load.


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