Pilot's tip of the week

Wake Turbulence From Small Jets


Subscriber question:

"Can a small business jet or turbo prop create a wake turbulence problem for my 172?" - Glen F.


“The honest answer is yes! But, practically speaking, small business jets and turboprops do not cause great problems for us General Aviation pilots. Probably the greatest danger is getting blasted by a small jet or turbo prop as it taxis from a parked position. It takes a lot of power to get them moving, so that initial surge to get started can cause a lot of wind. This, of course, is caused by the blast from the engines or the propellers, not from wake turbulence.

wake_turbulence.pngSo, one needs to be aware of where you park relative to these aircraft. That is one reason to tie down and chock your aircraft when parked. Installation of control locks or restraints will also help prevent damage to a flight control that could be blown hard against a stop. If you’ve parked on a ramp where jets are coming and going you need to conduct a thorough preflight to be sure you have not incurred any damage from jet blast.

OK, now that we escaped from the ramp with no problems, let’s look at the wake turbulence problem as we continue our flight.

Here is what the Pilots Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge says about wake turbulence:

All aircraft generate a wake while in flight. This disturbance is caused by a pair of counter-rotating vortices trailing from the wing tips. The vortices from larger aircraft pose problems for encountering aircraft. The wake of these aircraft can impose rolling moments exceeding the roll control authority of the encountering aircraft.

So, even a J-3 cub can make wing tip vortices. However they may only be significant to a butterfly.

The severity of wake turbulence is directly proportional to the weight of the aircraft. So, yes, a light business jet or turbo prop does make wake turbulence but normally not enough to overcome the control authority of a light aircraft.

While it is true that most light jets do not make strong enough wakes to overcome our control authority, encountering wake turbulence can still be unpleasant and very destabilizing to our flight. So exercise great caution whenever you are landing or taking off behind someone who is heavier than you. Remember the larger the jet, the greater the vortices. The best practice is to follow the guidance provided in the aeronautical information manual regarding wake turbulence any time you are following a heavier aircraft.”

Click here to view a tip on avoiding wake turbulence during takeoff.

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