Straight Climbs and Descents – Climbs


For a given power setting and load condition, there is only one attitude that gives the most efficient rate of climb. The airspeed and climb power setting that determines this climb attitude are given in the performance data found in the POH/ AFM. Details of the technique for entering a climb vary according to airspeed on entry and the type of climb (constant airspeed or constant rate) desired. (Heading and trim control are maintained as discussed in straight-and-level flight.)



To enter a constant-airspeed climb from cruising airspeed, raise the miniature aircraft to the approximate nose-high indication for the predetermined climb speed. The attitude varies according to the type of airplane. Apply light backelevator pressure to initiate and maintain the climb attitude. The pressures vary as the airplane decelerates. Power may be advanced to the climb power setting simultaneously with the pitch change or after the pitch change is established and the airspeed approaches climb speed. If the transition from level flight to climb is smooth, the VSI shows an immediate trend upward, continues to move slowly, and then stops at a rate appropriate to the stabilized airspeed and attitude. (Primary and supporting instruments for the climb entry are shown in Figure 7-25.)

Figure 7-25. Climb entry for constant airspeed climb.

Figure 7-25. Climb entry for constant airspeed climb. [click image to enlarge]

Once the airplane stabilizes at a constant airspeed and attitude, the ASI is primary for pitch and the heading indicator remains primary for bank. [Figure 7-26] Monitor the tachometer or manifold pressure gauge as the primary power instrument to ensure the proper climb power setting is being maintained. If the climb attitude is correct for the power setting selected, the airspeed will stabilize at the desired speed. If the airspeed is low or high, make an appropriately small pitch correction.

Figure 7-26. Stabilized climb at constant airspeed.

Figure 7-26. Stabilized climb at constant airspeed. [click image to enlarge]

To enter a constant airspeed climb, first complete the airspeed reduction from cruise airspeed to climb speed in straightand- level flight. The climb entry is then identical to entry from cruising airspeed, except that power must be increased simultaneously to the climb setting as the pitch attitude is increased. Climb entries on partial panel are more easily and accurately controlled if entering the maneuver from climbing speed.


The technique for entering a constant-rate climb is very similar to that used for entry to a constant-airspeed climb from climb airspeed. As the power is increased to the approximate setting for the desired rate, simultaneously raise the miniature aircraft to the climbing attitude for the desired airspeed and rate of climb. As the power is increased, the ASI is primary for pitch control until the vertical speed approaches the desired value. As the vertical speed needle stabilizes, it becomes primary for pitch control and the ASI becomes primary for power control. [Figure 7-27]

Figure 7-27. Stabilized climb at constant rate.

Figure 7-27. Stabilized climb at constant rate. [click image to enlarge]

Pitch and power corrections must be promptly and closely coordinated. For example, if the vertical speed is correct, but the airspeed is low, add power. As the power is increased, the miniature aircraft must be lowered slightly to maintain constant vertical speed. If the vertical speed is high and the airspeed is low, lower the miniature aircraft slightly and note the increase in airspeed to determine whether or not a power change is also necessary. [Figure 7-28] Familiarity with the approximate power settings helps to keep pitch and power corrections at a minimum.

Figure 7-28. Airspeed low and vertical speed high—reduce pitch.

Figure 7-28. Airspeed low and vertical speed high—reduce pitch.

Leveling Off

To level off from a climb and maintain an altitude, it is necessary to start the level off before reaching the desired altitude. The amount of lead varies with rate of climb and pilot technique. If the airplane is climbing at 1,000 fpm, it continues to climb at a decreasing rate throughout the transition to level flight. An effective practice is to lead the altitude by 10 percent of the vertical speed shown (500 fpm/ 50-foot lead, 1,000 fpm/100-foot lead).


To level off at cruising airspeed, apply smooth, steady forward-elevator pressure toward level flight attitude for the speed desired. As the attitude indicator shows the pitch change, the vertical speed needle moves slowly toward zero, the altimeter needle moves more slowly, and the airspeed shows acceleration. [Figure 7-29] When the altimeter, attitude indicator, and VSI show level flight, constant changes in pitch and torque control have to be made as the airspeed increases. As the airspeed approaches cruising speed, reduce power to the cruise setting. The amount of lead depends upon the rate of acceleration of the airplane.

Figure 7-29. Level off at cruising speed.

Figure 7-29. Level off at cruising speed. [click image to enlarge]

To level off at climbing airspeed, lower the nose to the pitch attitude appropriate to that airspeed in level flight. Power is simultaneously reduced to the setting for that airspeed as the pitch attitude is lowered. If power reduction is at a rate proportionate to the pitch change, airspeed will remain constant.

Flight Literacy Recommends

William Kershner's Instrument Flight Manual - Everything you need to know to obtain an FAA instrument rating, or a great refresher for existing instrument pilots. Covered subjects include airplane performance and basic instrument flying, navigation and communications, clearances, planning IFR flight, and carrying out the instrument flight itself from preflight, takeoff and departure, en route, through to the approach and landing phases.