Attitude vs. Airspeed

PhotoPilot

New Member
The point of this post is simple: Pitch for an airspeed or pitch for an altitude?

I've learned attitude flying from day one. At my flight school, we pitch for our altitude (or altitide change) and we power for our airspeed. It seems to be precise, simple to learn, and a great way to keep your eyes outside.

Yesterday, I flew a Cirrus SR22 with an instructor who wanted me to fly it by pitching for airspeed and powering for altitude (or altitude change). Though it wasn't as intuitive as the attitude flying (because I'm not as familiar with it), it worked fine as well. The view out the windscreen was a bit different on final, but it wasn't particularly difficult.

Having not flown airspeed before, I assumed that the two were really ultimately identical and a pilot just arrived at the same point by taking a different theoretical path. Now I'm not so sure. There were some remarkable differences in pitch and throttle setting compared to what I use when flying attitude - enough that I certainly feel they are two different animals!

How do you folks fly? Why do you do what you do? Have you tried both methods and, if so, which do you prefer? Any commercial pilots flying big hunks of metal through the air care to tell us what your take on the two methods is?
 

pilot602

If specified, this will replace the title that
They way I was always taught (and fly) is everything is interconnected.

So, in slow flight it's generally preferrable to fly pitch for airspeed and power for altitude (this tranlates well to flying heavier aircraft where you will cary power all the way down final) and in cruise I rely more on pitch for altitude and power for speed.

Flying ultimately comes down to the energy you have vs. the energy you don't have. If you can think of "spending" energy in return for a certian action flying becomes a lot easier. Because in the end a pilot is simply managing how much kinetic vs. potential energy the airframe has at all times.

(edit: Um. yeah. Doug said it better.
)
 

PhotoPilot

New Member
Knowing that I'm about to sound like a rookie (justly so), I have to ask: Both how?

The only time we really use what I would consider 'airspeed' flying is when we're in a partial panel IFR situation and don't want to make a pitch change in the blind. When would you use one or the other, Doug? Do you think they're the same animal viewed from different angles or do they stand alone?

Even more importantly, is it a detriment if a person learns the theory behind both but only employs one in their every day flying?
 

PhotoPilot

New Member
[ QUOTE ]
They way I was always taught (and fly) is everything is interconnected.

. . .

Flying ultimately comes down to the energy you have vs. the energy you don't have. If you can think of "spending" energy in return for a certian action flying becomes a lot easier. Because in the end a pilot is simply managing how much kinetic vs. potential energy the airframe has at all times.


[/ QUOTE ]

That's a wickedly good explaination. Don't you hate it when something is obvious but you didn't see it?
 

MidlifeFlyer

Well-Known Member
[ QUOTE ]
Knowing that I'm about to sound like a rookie (justly so), I have to ask: Both how?

***
Do you think they're the same animal viewed from different angles or do they stand alone?

***

Even more importantly, is it a detriment if a person learns the theory behind both but only employs one in their every day flying?

[/ QUOTE ]Don't worry about sounding like a rookie when asking a question that usually causes a major battle about the "one true way".

They are the same animal viewed from different angles.

When Doug says both, I'm pretty sure he's saying that pitch + power = performance. If you're on an ILS and need to make an adjustment, because you're too high, other than one or the other being easier for you, does it =really= matter whether you

(a) pitch down to catch the glide slope and reduce power to keep the airspeed in check
or
(b) reduce power to increase your descent rate and pitch down to maintain your airspeed

Bottom line is that you will have to do both to get the performance you want.

Take it to visual flight. You're on short final and getting too low and slow. Does it matter whether you

(a) pitch up to stop the descent and increase power to increase airspeed
or
(b) add power to stop your descent and pitch down to increase your airspeed

Again, you will have to adjust =both= pitch and power or you will have a problem.

So the answer is that you need both pitch and power in order to adjust airspeed and altitude. Everything else is a matter of teaching technique.

In my case, I happen to teach pitch for airspeed and power for altitude to new students. Not because it's the "right" way, but because I find it to be a more effective teaching technique until my student reach the point where they naturally use them both in coordination.

Here's why (these are all interrelated)

1. New students are used to flying cars. They already "know" power controls airspeed. Even if the real answer is "use 'em both!" they need to do some unlearning first for the 3-dimensional context.

2. "Push in and the houses get bigger, pull back and the houses get smaller," in addition to being a worn-out phrase, is intuitive for the uninitiated. Unfortunately, the addition, "Keep pulling back and the houses get bigger real fast!" is all too true. Again, some unlearning is necessary before you can do it right.

3. I don't give a hoot if you want to use pitch or power as your altitude or airspeed control or just want to pray to the gods to make the airplane do what you want when you are at cruise airspeed 4000' above the ground. But you have to think "pitch controls airspeed and power controls altitude" in virtually all critical situations (where airspeed is low). Engine-out is obvious. If one of my students ever has an engine failure on takeoff, I want her first thought o be "pitch for airspeed." I don't want it to be, "pull back so that I can climb."

Less obvious is short final. I have seen pilot after pilot who is coming in too low try to stop the descent with pitch. The result? Even lower and slower.

Actually, I've recently come across another theory that bears looking at: "Always pitch for what's important". Still haven't figured out if it's a solution or just another way of starting the argument
 

Derg

New Arizona, Il Duce/Warlord
Staff member
I'm one of those weird kinetic-E/potential-E kind of guys with a little of pitch + power = performance.

Like if I'm descending, I'll usually pitch for airspeed and vary the rate with power. If I'm climbing, I'll keep the power constant and pitch for a constant speed. If I'm in level flight, I'll use a combination of pitch and power to mean unaccelerated/straight & level.

But on approach, it's KE and PE which really helped out my visual approaches tremendously. Nothing fun like being on a high downwind and tower asks:

"Do you see the airport?"

"Yup"

"Clear for the visual!"

"Woo hoo!"

But in a transport category turbojet-powered aircraft, you'd better learn to control airspeed and arrive at a position 1000' AGL, stabilized, on speed, engines spooled and aircraft trimmed no matter what it takes to get there.
 

FL410

New Member
I use both, although my CFI teaches Power for altitude and attitude for airspeed. It all comes down to Attitude+Power=Performance. I just fly my own little method, I'd say that potential energy describes it well. I was actually thrown off during the first few hours of training by having to fly using power for alt and pitch for airspeed.

Same goes for the instrument scan, I'm taught the hub and spoke method, but in the end my brain develops its own scan. It's hard to explain.
 

MidlifeFlyer

Well-Known Member
[ QUOTE ]
I'm one of those weird kinetic-E/potential-E kind of guys

[/ QUOTE ]I'm impressed! I understand the concept. But it's way too complicated for me to apply in the cockpit — sort of like trying to figure out what the actual winds aloft are by doing the wind calculations in reverse on an E6B in flight


in IMC


with no autopilot


and partial panel.
 

PhotoPilot

New Member
[ QUOTE ]
But you have to think "pitch controls airspeed and power controls altitude" in virtually all critical situations (where airspeed is low). Engine-out is obvious. If one of my students ever has an engine failure on takeoff, I want her first thought o be "pitch for airspeed." I don't want it to be, "pull back so that I can climb."

Less obvious is short final. I have seen pilot after pilot who is coming in too low try to stop the descent with pitch. The result? Even lower and slower.


[/ QUOTE ]

Engine out: another good (and obvious but overlooked by me) example of when we use airspeed tactics!

Low on short final? We pitch up and make a simultaneous power increase to both rise to our glide path and maintain airspeed. Same product and result as increasing power to stop the descent and pitching up to keep the speed in check but a different way of looking at the approach.

This is great! Having not been introduced to the airspeed teaching methodology in my time as a pilot, I've failed to correlate the similarities between the two teaching styles. And 'two teaching styles' is really just about all it boils down to, isn't it? If looked at in terms of pitch + power = performance and kinetic-E vs. potential-E, they are MUCH, MUCH more the same animal than I thought they were.

Y'all are bonified geniuses, ya're!
 

E_Dawg

Moderator
I like the energy management idea. It's all semantics anyways: set the pitch, set the power and get the performance.
 

CAVOK

New Member
It all depends on which side of the power curve you are on. Try to pitch up to gain altitude during slow flight at 40kts...then agian try to add power to increase airspeed when you are all trimmed up for an 80kt climb. As we all know, you can't. This is one of the hardest things to drill into a students head in the first few hours when they still believe "gas means go".

I'm sure we have all heard the story:
A student and instructor are bickering during the preflight briefing on how to control the aircraft's airspeed. The student says power, and the instructor says pitch. When they are cleared for takeoff the student begins frantically moving the elevator up and down. The instructor asks the student, "what the heck are you doing?"
"Trying to build airspeed for takeoff." replys the student.

KE and PE is key.
 

mastermags

Well-Known Member *giggity*
Everything everyone has said is entirely true and I will agree with 602.... I generally pitch for airspeed in slow flight... it tends to give quicker results when you need them ie, when you are getting close to stall speed... not to mention that adding power will pick up your nose.... but, if you need speed NOW, add the power. KE vs PE
 

Derg

New Arizona, Il Duce/Warlord
Staff member
Flying is an art, not a science!


Most helpful phrase of my entire aviation career!
 

mastermags

Well-Known Member *giggity*
[ QUOTE ]
Flying is an art, not a science!


Most helpful phrase of my entire aviation career!

[/ QUOTE ]

Tru dat!! Makes me feel better about what I'm doing too!
 

Derg

New Arizona, Il Duce/Warlord
Staff member
Really, in flying an airplane, there are literally eighteen different ways to accomplish the same task. And probably more that I haven't discovered yet.

Unless you're former Air Force "SAC" where there's one way to do everything.
 

CAVOK

New Member
[ QUOTE ]
Flying is an art, not a science!


Most helpful phrase of my entire aviation career!

[/ QUOTE ]
AMEN!!
 

CAVOK

New Member
[ QUOTE ]
Really, in flying an airplane, there are literally eighteen different ways to accomplish the same task...
Unless you're former Air Force "SAC" where there's one way to do everything.

[/ QUOTE ]

Those Air Force fighter pilots have it easy.
"You want me to climb and accelerate at the same time? No problem...I have a lever for that."


They can always play the Thrust to Weight ratio card...jerks
 
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