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Atlantic Flight Training Ltd

Chapter 5.
Introduction Speed is the rate of change of position, or distance covered per unit of time.
It is expressed in linear units per hour. As there are three main linear units, there are three
main expressions of speed:
Knots (kts)

nautical miles per hour

Miles per hour (mph)

statute miles per hour

Kilometres per hour (kph)

It must be emphasised that these speeds represent how far an aircraft will travel in one hour
ie, a speed of 300kts means that in one hour an aircraft will travel 300 nautical miles.
Speed can be calculated from the formula:
Speed = distance/time
Three groups of speed are used in air navigation:

The speed of the aircraft through the air


The speed of the aircraft in relation to the ground

Relative Speed

The speed of an aircraft relative to another aircraft

Air Speed Indicator Reading (ASIR) The speed measured by the pitot-static system
connected to the air speed indicator without any corrections.
Instrument Error
Caused by inaccuracies during the manufacturing process. Normally
these errors are so small that they are ignored.
Position Error When the air flow around the pitot static system is disrupted then
inaccuracies can occur. Position errors for different configurations are listed in the operating
manual by using graphs or tables.
Indicated Air Speed (IAS)
Indicated air speed is the ASIR corrected for instrument error
due to imperfections in manufacture. The aircraft is flown on IAS.
Rectified Air Speed (RAS)
Rectified Air Speed, sometimes known as Calibrated Air
Speed (CAS) is IAS corrected for Position Error. RAS will equal TAS (True Air Speed) in
calibration conditions, sea level temperature +15C,with pressure 1013.25mb.

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Atlantic Flight Training

Air density decreases with:

Higher temperatures

Higher pressure altitude

If an aircraft flies at the same groundspeed, where the air mass is not moving, the ASI will
indicate a lower speed if:

The temperature is increased

The pressure altitude is increased

The correction for air density can be calculated mathematically or by use of the CRP5.
TAS can be mentally calculated by adding 2% of the RAS/CAS for each 1000 feet of pressure
the TAS.

An aircraft is flying at 10 000 ft at an RAS/CAS of 150 knots. What is

Apply the formula

TAS = CAS + ((2 x CAS/100) x Atitude in 1000s of feet)
TAS = 150 + ((2 x 1.5) x 10)
TAS = 150 + 30 = 180 knots

Equivalent Air Speed (EAS) Most ASIs are calibrated for an ideal incompressible air flow
(v2). As compression affects all speeds EAS is RAS corrected for compressibility. In real
terms EAS is
the speed equivalent to a given dynamic pressure in ISA conditions at mean sea level.
By using a compressibility factor RAS/CAS can be corrected to give EAS. The CRP5 can be
used for the calculation. Normally compressibility is only corrected for a TAS of greater than
300 knots.
True Air Speed (TAS) True Air Speed is EAS corrected for density error - pressure altitude
and temperature. TAS is the speed of the aircraft relative to the air mass through which the
aircraft is flying.
Groundspeed Ground speed is the speed of the aircraft relative to the earth. It takes into
account the aircraft's movement relative to the air mass (TAS and heading) and movement of
the airmass (wind velocity).

General Navigation


15 March, 2002

Atlantic Flight Training Ltd

Mach Number An alternative method of measuring speed is to express it as a fraction of the
local speed of sound. This fraction is known as the Mach Number (MN). The relationship of
TAS to Mach Number is much simpler than that of RAS to TAS, as the only variable factor is
temperature. Therefore, at higher speeds it is usually more convenient to calculate TAS from
Mach Number.
The formula for calculating the MN is based on TAS and the Local Speed of Sound (LSS).
The LSS depends upon the air mass temperature and is calculated by the following formula:
LSS = 39TK
Where T is the temperature in degrees Kelvin.
An approximate calculation is:
LSS = (644 + 1.2t)
Where t is in C.
Summary of Airspeed Indications
Instrument Error
Position Error
Relative Speed
Relative speed is the speed of one object in relation to another. In the
diagram below the two aircraft are at different speeds and the relative speed is the difference
between the two 60 knots
If the aircraft are on reciprocal tracks then the relative speed is the sum of the two speeds.

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Aircraft A 300 knots

Aircraft B 360 knots

In this case the relative speed (closing speed) is 660 knots.

The relative speed can be used to calculate times of:

Aircraft crossing

When two aircraft will meet

Relative speeds and relative velocity are discussed in a later chapter.

General Navigation


15 March, 2002