Pilot's tip of the week

Pitch or Power?


Subscriber question:

"How about some clarity on the old pitch and power debate? That is, what controls airspeed and what controls altitude?" - Jim C.



“This subject generates some very firm opinions from some pilots one way or the other and has been discussed in hanger flying sessions for the last hundred years. Many of us have come to the conclusion that it can be either, depending on the situation.

The true secret is angle of attack.

At low angles of attack, that is in cruise flight, pitch can control altitude and power can control airspeed. At higher angles of attack such as final approach, the opposite is true. In this case, pitch controls airspeed and power controls altitude.

If you are low and slow on final and mistakenly try to use pitch for attitude and power for airspeed, you will simply increase induced drag by increasing pitch and possibly increase your descent rate to the runway, which could cause an unfavorable arrival.”

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