Unlike automobiles, it is harder to determine the exact speed aircraft are flying at due to underlying and unforeseen forces like airplane drag and other atmospheric phenomena. True airspeed (TAS), commonly referred to as knots true airspeed (KTAS) depending on one’s region of operation, is the determined speed of a plane relative to the air mass it is currently flying through. Moreover, as defined by the FAA, true airspeed must be adjusted based on an aircraft's altitude and non-standard air, as opposed to using measurements obtained at sea level where undisturbed air is present. While aircraft once relied on traditional analogue airspeed indicators (ASI) to gauge TAS, more modern adaptations like the Global Positioning System (GPS) have been developed to offer bolstered reliability and versatility of aircraft navigation.
Fluctuating depending on altitude, true airspeed typically increases by 2% for every 1,000ft of elevation gained. When using an analog airspeed indicator to calculate TAS, the pilot must manually set pressure altitude and air temperature with the aid of an adjustable knob. However, with the advent of various types of jet engines capable of lower-stratosphere flight, the addition of Global Positioning Systems and their modernization of TAS indicators proved to be more reliable. Together, a GPS and an ASI provide accurate information needed to navigate the skies based on an airline’s flight plan and vehicle specifications.
While ASI are especially crucial for measuring vehicle performance when reaching cruising altitudes upwards of 30,000-40,000ft, TAS variables are also used to construct designated flight paths when routes are expected to confront unfavorable weather conditions. To accurately gather this information while in flight, a pitot tube affixed to the exterior airframe of the fuselage gathers ram air while still air is sent into a barometric static port. Constantly affected by air density and temperature, the difference in ratio between these two measurements of gasses is indicative of the current indicated airspeed (IAS), and this will ultimately correspond with the TAS indicated on the ASI.
As TAS indicators are essential among aircraft, if routine maintenance demands upgrading or replacing aging or damaged equipment, your vehicle must remain grounded until repairs are complete. For all Aircraft on Ground (AOG) situations, and other unique time constraints, Automatize Electronics is here to help.
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