Know Your Airspeeds and How They Can Help You

No matter how much you flight plan and prepare for a flight, sometimes unexpected things happen that can throw you for a loop. The best way to be ready for these situations is...

1) Always expect the unexpected

2) Practice how you'll handle situations that can arise

3) Stay up-to-date on your knowledge

One valuable way to do this knowing your airspeed indicator.

I bring up being prepared because it's summer, meaning the air is hot, it's bumpy, it randomly builds into convective layers, and is sometimes simply unpredictable. So being able to manage your airspeed and knowing when to be in which arc is a good way to keep you and your passengers safe. 

Airspeed Indicator

The first two on the bottom of the indicator are Vso and Vs1: your stall speeds with and without flaps. Always be checking yourself on takeoff and landing to make sure you're not too close to these. In fact, if you're landing in gusty winds/tailwind carry a little extra power to give yourself some extra speed. 

Vfe is your maximum flap speed, so if airspeed is being erratic on a bumpy day and you're trying to bring flaps down for any reason, give yourself some cushion room as to not overspeed them.

The green arc is your normal operating range for the aircraft. Something that is not marked on the indicator however is Va, your safe maneuvering speed. If you're going to be making full abrupt control movements (or penetrating turbulent air since it does this to your controls) then stay not only below green arc but also below Va. 

Vno is the top of your green arc with the yellow arc to follow. The yellow arc is simply your caution range, it's not a specific V speed but it's warning you that if you keep going fast you'll reach Vne, your never exceed speed. Regardless of if you're in smooth or turbulent air here, you could damage the aircraft. This would most likely happen if you had a lot of power in with the nose pitched down. Imagine flying near a thunderstorm cell and catching part of an updraft. If you're lucky enough to recover from it, you might look up to find yourself in this situation. So scan everything, keep the aircraft under control and stay calm if this does happen to you. 

Phenomenon such as updrafts and windshear can be encountered outside of a thunderstorm area. The best way to predict which areas they may be in is PIREPs. So do thorough flight planning! 

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