Avionics Report

May 2012 Issue

Angle of Attack: Now Available for Everyone

So long as you don’t require flap-position sensing, an AoA system is a minor alteration. But the FAA may relent to significantly more integrated systems soon.

We’re told that somewhere there’s an Israeli air tactics manual that contains the line, “Speed is life.” Good thinking for fighter pilots, but down here in the more mundane world of GA, it’s probably more appropriate to say, “Angle of attack is life.” AoA sensors in GA airplanes are as rare as $4 avgas, so we use airspeed as a proxy to get the right angle for approach and landing. One problem with airspeed is that most of us only know the right airspeed for gross weight at sea level on a standard day. If we’re light, we tend to come in fast and curse the floating landing that ensues. The other end of the problem is getting too slow, or pulling the plane into a high-g-loading stall far above the wings-level stalling speed. The result when at low altitude can be grisly.

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