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Old 6th Sep 2010, 14:10
  #229 (permalink)  
Join Date: Sep 2010
Location: Devon
Posts: 91
Nice to see another Devon person here. I agree this is a great thread. Here is a simple explanation of airspeed.

A stationary aircraft, just like anything else is subject to static air pressure, which varies from place to place, day to day and decreases with an increase in altitude and.or a rise in temperature.

Once that aircraft starts moving through the air, it also experiences dynamic pressure which is the force of the air particles it meets as it moves. Of course the static pressure remains too, so the aircraft is experiencing static + dynamic which is called pitot pressure or total pressure. The laws of physics say that total pressure remains constant.

Indicated Airspeed (IAS) is a measurement of dynamic pressure which is described as 1/2 rho (rho is air density) X V2 (V= velocity). This is very important when talking about principles of flight (thrust, drag, stall speed etc)

Air density is a function of pressure and temperature, so if density (rho) is reduced V2 which is True Airspeed (TAS) has to have increased at a given IAS. (ie the same number of particles hit the aircraft in a given time)

In a nil wind situation TAS would be the same as your speed over the ground (GS). Groundspeed is then calculated by adding or subtracting wind speed from TAS. eg TAS 150kts, tail wind 20 kts = GS 170kts.

Fairly simple at low speeds. At speeds of 300kts and above the compressibility of air becomes an issue and has to be allowed for - the air is compressed as it stops against the aircraft. So TAS also includes an adjustment to compressibility.

Mach no is a percentage value of the speed of sound ie 0.85 = 85% speed of sound. Unfortunately the speed of sound changes with pressure but at sea level is around 760 mph and decreases as pressure decreases.

Aerodynamically things start going pear shaped as an aircraft nears the speed of sound as the airflow over parts of the aircraft can go supersonic. Aircraft approaching these kind of speeds have to fly mach numbers. Airliners typically fly Mach 0.80-0.85.
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