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Ground School

Velocity Vector

The Flightlab Ground School emphasizes two primary components of aircraft behavior.

First, to understand basic stability characteristics, we look at how an aircraft responds to the displacement of its velocity vector. The velocity vector is simply a conceptual arrow starting at the aircraft’s center of gravity and extending in the direction in which the aircraft is actually moving (but not necessary pointed toward) at any instant. The velocity vector contains both an aircraft’s angle of attack and sideslip angle. As you’ll discover, if you know (or can imagine) where the velocity vector is headed relative to the aircraft’s fixed body axes, you’ll know what forces are building and what the aircraft is most likely to do next. This applies to aircraft across the board, big and small, straight-wing and swept, as long as they display conventional stability characteristics. Stable aircraft of different types may have noticeably different flying qualities and maneuvering characteristics, and may require different handling techniques during upsets, but they behave in response to the same shared principles. They depart controlled flight in response to those shared principles, as well.

Pressure Patterns

Second, we look at the nature of pressure patterns over the surface of a wing, and at how these patterns change in intensity and migrate along the cord and span in response to angle of attack. For any aircraft, big or small, the distribution of pressure determines control.

In addition to the subject areas above, we can tailor your ground school to your background and interests. Pass your curser over the list below to find links to excerpts from our ground school texts and PowerPoints. If you need a free Adobe PDF reader, click here.


The Aerodynamics of Lift and Control:

Two-Dimensional Aerodynamics. (sample slide)

Boundary layer and separation. (sample slide)

Wing planform: stall pattern and vortex effects.


Aircraft Dynamics and Upset Recovery:

Velocity vector. (sample slide)

The nature of stability and control.

The aircraft’s natural modes.

Lateral/directional coupling.

Roll dynamics. (sample slide)

Flying quality differences between prop aircraft and jets.

Limitations on the use of rudders for large aircraft.

FAR certification requirements.

Simulator alpha/beta envelopes. (sample PDF text)


Spin Dynamics:

Spin characteristics.

Inertial and aerodynamic moments.

Aircraft mass distribution and spin recovery techniques.


Upset Causes:

NASA vortex studies and encounter dynamics. (sample slide)

Spatial Disorientation.

NTSB accident analyses.


See the Download Course Notes page for the complete ground school texts.

In the illustrations above, the blue arrows represent low surface “static” pressure. The longer the arrow the lower the pressure. It might surprise you to see how deflecting a flap or aileron down at the rear of the wing dramatically reduces pressure at the leading edge. The control deflection causes the airflow over the top of the wing to speed up, and the airflow under the bottom to slow down. The pressure difference between top and bottom increases; lift goes up.


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Plymouth Airport (KPYM) Plymouth, MA

Office: 421 Beacon Street, Boston, MA 02115

(617) 680-8581

© Flight Emergency & Advanced Maneuvers Training, Inc. dba Flightlab, 2009. All rights reserved.

For training purposes only.


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