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!)