March 2008 Issue

Flight by Alpha Angle: Beats an ASI Hands Down

Flying angle of attack is safer and more precise than airspeed reference. These inexpensive gadgets bring that capability to the light aircraft GA cockpit.

At the dawn of the last century, it didnít take the Wright brothers long to figure out that wings stall at a measurable angle of attack. Student pilots are taught this concept, then promptly trained to forget about it and use airspeed to detect an impending stall. Thatís because light aircraft have airspeed indicators, but they donít have angle of attack indicators. Yet thereís no reason they shouldnít have these gadgets and, in fact, there are four companies hawking such prod- ucts. The argument for AoA indicators is convincing. By learning to fly angle of attack rather than airspeed, an airplane can be flown more precisely at slow airspeeds, improving short field performance and reducing stall/spin surprises.

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