Flying Strategically

What speed are you going to climb at today? I’m guessing most of you are thinking Vy or possibly Vx – best rate and best angle climb speed. Maybe you’re thinking of a standard cruise-climb speed. CRJ-200 pilots might be say 290 knots / .74 Mach, and that certainly fits the standard profile for the airplane.

My answer might seem pretty ambiguous. I don’t know — it depends on the situation.

Let me preface this piece by saying that this is really tailored towards people flying more advanced equipment. We’re talking turbines, jets or high performance piston-driven planes. That’s right you fancy Cirrus pilots, that means you.

A few weeks ago I was flying a load of passengers from Rochester, NY to Detroit, MI. It was my leg and I was climbing out the way I normally do: airline profile and standard as can be. For my plane and filed altitude, that was going to be 290 knots indicated all the way up. But then we started to hear reports of rime ice and moderate turbulence in a narrow band between flight level 240 and 250.

Not a fan of airframe icing or turbulence, I performed a most non-standard maneuver. I shallowed my climb to a mere 500 feet per minute and let the speed build up. By the time the bumps began at 23,500 feet, I was already up to 315 knots – thank you winter temps!

My next step was to increase my climb rate in a zoom climb, trading airspeed for altitude. Nothing terribly agressive, but just enough to punch through the bumpy layer quickly without even picking up a trace of ice. I love it when a plan comes together!

The point of this little story is to encourage you to fly strategically. Profiles are a great way to fly the airplane most of the time. But it’s important to blend those profiles with your situational awareness and aeronautical knowledge to make the safest and best flight possible.


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About the author
Pat Flannigan is a professional pilot and aviation blogger. He has been flying for fifteen years and is currently working as an airline pilot in the United States.

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