AS9120B, ISO 9001:2015, AND FAA AC 0056B ACCREDITED

The Three Types of Airspeed in Aviation

Airspeed plays a crucial role in aviation, enabling pilots to maintain control and make informed decisions during flight. However, understanding the different types of airspeed can be challenging for both aspiring pilots and aviation enthusiasts. For this reason, today’s blog post will delve into the three primary types of airspeed: True Airspeed (TAS), Indicated Airspeed (IAS), and Ground Speed (GS). By the end of our overview, you will have a clear understanding of how each type functions and how they contribute to the safety of air travel.

True Airspeed (TAS)

True airspeed (TAS) is the speed of an aircraft in relation to the air mass through which it is flying. TAS is essential because it provides an accurate measure of an aircraft's actual performance and helps pilots determine the time required to reach a destination. Unlike indicated airspeed, true airspeed accounts for variations in air density due to altitude and temperature changes. To calculate TAS, pilots utilize true airspeed indicators that factor in pressure altitude, outside air temperature, and altitude variations. By adjusting for these factors, pilots can accurately determine their aircraft's speed relative to the air mass surrounding it.

Indicated Airspeed (IAS)

Indicated airspeed (IAS), on the other hand, is the speed read directly from the aircraft's airspeed indicator. It represents the difference between the pressure of the pitot-static system and the ambient air pressure. Generally, IAS is crucial for maintaining the aircraft within its operational limits and provides reference speeds for takeoff, landing, and maneuvering.

Indicated airspeed indicators are commonly found in aircraft cockpits and are calibrated to provide accurate readings under standard conditions. It is important to note that IAS does not account for variations in air density caused by altitude or temperature changes. Therefore, to obtain true airspeed, pilots need to adjust IAS using altitude and temperature correction tables or rely on aircraft instrumentation that automatically calculates and displays TAS.

Ground Speed (GS)

Ground Speed refers to the speed at which an aircraft is moving relative to the ground. It takes into account both the aircraft's airspeed and the effects of wind. While TAS and IAS provide crucial information for flight planning and control, ground speed is particularly significant for determining the actual time required to travel between two points.

To calculate ground speed, pilots consider their true airspeed and factor in the wind's direction and speed. Wind can either add to or subtract from an aircraft's ground speed, depending on whether it is a headwind or tailwind. While a tailwind can increase the ground speed, a headwind can decrease it. To locate ground speed indicators, please reference the advanced avionics systems and navigation equipment on the aircraft.


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