MEMBER ALERT: AOPA will be closing at 1:45 p.m. Eastern on Dec. 6 and will reopen at 8:30 a.m. Eastern on Dec. 9.
June 10, 2009
Density altitude is something all pilots learn during flight training, but it’s likely not something you account for year-round. As the temperature creeps up during the summer months, don’t overlook density altitude’s effect on your aircraft’s performance. If not anticipated, its effects on a flight can be perplexing and detrimental; it can even cause accidents.
You may remember what your instructor told you: “Density altitude is pressure altitude corrected for nonstandard temperature.” Simply put, density altitude is the altitude at which the aircraft feels it is flying. A high density altitude means that the air is less dense than normal, so your aircraft will perform as if you were flying at a higher altitude. On a hot, humid day, the aircraft will accelerate and climb more slowly and will need to move faster to attain the same amount of lift.
To minimize the risks of a high density altitude, fly in the morning or evening when the temperature is cooler, and don’t fill the tanks to the brim. A good rule of thumb is to abort your takeoff if you do not have 80 percent of your takeoff speed halfway down the runway. Before flying to a high-elevation airport, know whether your aircraft climbs more efficiently with the first increment of flaps.
More tips for summer flying are available in AOPA’s revised subject report on Density Altitude and the AOPA Air Safety Foundation’s Summer Weather Safety Hot Spot.
Pilot Safety and Skills,
Weather and Seasons
Your mission: Fly with eight F-15s to the Philippines, rejoin, refuel with air tankers, engage an unknown number of Red Air fighters, refuel again, and then return home to Okinawa. And fly with radio silence up to the first contact with the Red Air fighters.
The Aviation Safety Reporting System is a voluntary safety reporting program that allows airmen to make anonymous reports to the government about issues encountered in aviation, with anonymity allowing the airman to be candid–even when their actions may have been a violation of the regulations.
The pilots of an Atlas Air Boeing 747 Dreamlifter en route from John F. Kennedy International Airport to McConnell Air Force Base in Wichita, Kan., mistakenly landed 8 nautical miles away at Colonel James Jabara Airport Nov. 20.
AOPA thanks our members for their continued support in protecting the freedom to fly.