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Aerodynamics

Aerodynamics

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07/31/2013

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Wind affects glide range just as it affects cruise range. An aeroplane cannot glide as far
into a headwind, but glides farther with a tailwind.

All things being equal, glide is best analyzed with a Power vs. Velocity graph such as
Figure 78. Maximum glide speed in zero wind is at the point where the tangent line from
the origin touches the curve, just as in Figure 81, and if there is wind the glide-speed
should be adjusted as in Figure 76. The conclusion seems to be that zero wind best glide
speed for a propeller aeroplane is the same as the best range speed in level flight and for a
jet aeroplane is the same as the best endurance speed. This is true if “things are equal”,
but usually things are not quite equal. The L/D formula shows that glide ratio depends on

Aerodynamics for Professional Pilots

Page 131

CDp and this value often changes following an engine failure, increasing substantially due
to the propeller wind-milling. When CDp increases the L/D ratio decreases and the
optimum angle of attack increases (i.e. the aeroplane must glide at a lower speed.)
Consequently the best glide speed is usually somewhat slower than the best range speed
with engines operating, and this effect is greatest for aeroplanes with fixed pitch
propellers.

It is important to note that when gliding into a headwind glide speed should be increased.
The graphical proof is exactly like that for cruising with a headwind shown previously.
With a headwind the aeroplane should glide at a lower angle of attack. This leads to the
counter intuitive situation in which a gliding pilot turning toward a desired touchdown
point, and presumably into a headwind, who finds the aeroplane gliding short must lower
the nose to glide farther. All pilots should experiment with this phenomenon as part of
flight training as it could save you some day.

With a tailwind maximum glide range is achieved at a slightly lower speed, i.e. higher
angle of attack than in zero wind. Knowing this is theoretically important but seldom
worth using in reality.

Since glide ratio depends on L/D ratio, anytime a pilot wants to descend more steeply
while gliding the objective is to increase drag as much as possible. Adding flaps will do
the trick, as will extending gear, spoilers, or any other drag producing devices. Increasing
speed (i.e. diving) will increase drag and result in a steeper descent, but less obvious is
that raising the nose will also increase drag (induced drag) and cause the aeroplane to
sink faster. A sideslip is also effective as it increases drag by destroying the streamline
nature of the aeroplane.

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