Better Than Best Maximum

Good Better Perfect

It’s strange what the brain gets up to sometimes.

I was reading about the well-known Vx, Vy speeds (Vx = best angle of climb; Vy = best rate of climb) in a British textbook, only they didn’t call it best rate of climb or best angle of climb. The writer used the adjective maximum, as in maximum angle of climb and … well, you get the idea.

For some reason, this switch made things snap into focus a bit better. Practically, it doesn’t make that much difference of course, but when I think of a best rate of climb and compare that with maximum rate of climb, the latter phrase makes more of an impact. Maximum, it seems to me, is “fuller” somehow than best. Bear with me here: while there may be a better than best rate, there’s nothing better than maximum.

Yes I know, silly semantics. But think about it for a second and let me know what you think; sometimes when trying to grasp a difficult topic, a word change here or there can make all the difference between instant comprehension and drudgery.

Maneuvering Va

Everywhere I “go,” there’s a lot of talk among student pilots about Maneuvering Speed: what it means, why it’s necessary to know what it is, why it doesn’t appear on the airspeed indicator, and why it reduces in value with reduced weight.

I’ve heard (and read) explanations aplenty utilizing such ideas as angle-of-attack, the increasing or decreasing distance between “flying aoa” and “critical aoa,” wing-loading, designed load-limits, and even manufacturer-imposed limits on elevation travel!

All these have contributed more to confusion than comprehension and I can just imagine what combination of bizarre answers given over the years when asking the student pilot the natural follow-up question (after definition) about why Va reduces with reduced weight. It serves to show, I think, how unnecessarily complicated we make things. No two texts seem to have the same answer beyond the nominal definition of the speed, although they are all correct! The ultimate dilemma (trilemma, quadrilemma?)

Here it is, simple and easy, once and for all:

Maneuvering speed is the stall speed of the aircraft at design load limit and just as with any other stall speed, it is reduced at reduced weight.

This beautiful explanation is courtesy of Rich Stowell’s book—and a few forum posts here and there:

in which he quite effectively tackles all of this in terms of the V-n (or V-g) diagram.

(This post is in honor of my recently departed cat, Cessna. Clear skies and tailwinds, dear girl!)

Hearne, TX

From Bax Seat:

Hearne has one of the finest runways in Texas—7,000 feet of broad, endless white cement. Not hardly any airport, but they have one hell of a runway. It was a “war base” back in 1942. Now it’s a huddle of sungrayed tin buildings and the bleaching bones of two Normandy-invasion Waco gliders. Linda thought they were old house trailers. I explained that those things, full of men, were towed by C-47s and cut loose to glide down in the dark behind enemy lines. Linda looked a long time at the gaunt skeletons, the wind blowing her copper hair. “They were very brave, weren’t they?” And the long-forgotten ghosts lined up on rusted piperack seats grinned and clacked their appreciation.

Gordon Baxter, the good old boy could write!



By now, you surely must have heard the wry admonition that,

Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t they aren’t after you.

Researching, I found out that it’s a quote from Joseph Heller’s Catch-22 which I haven’t read, shame on me. It resounds because it rings of a certain ironic truth, does it not?

Every so often, I am rocked by the realization of just how dangerous general aviation can be and none more so than when I read NTSB reports of how some or other highly-experienced pilot augered in their perfectly good light aircraft. For God’s sake! I’m still a student pilot, what chance do I have?!

Enter paranoia. It seems to be the one thing that separates those who still live from those who still do not. The dead, it seems, may not have been suspicious enough, of their own skills, of their plane, of ATC, of the weather.

Ron Rapp writes about a terrible accident in Florida where the pilot’s inability to say “unable” and lack of what Rapp calls a skosh of paranoia cost him—and his passengers—their very lives. Costly.