Power Curve Blues

Avoid venturing into this dangerous power trap.

Tip Power Curve

Tip Power Curve

Every airplane has a power curve. And every power curve has a backside. It's an area of the performance envelope in which induced drag rises dramatically, necessitating considerably more power to maintain a given airspeed and altitude.

Venturing into this "region of reverse command" on approach can be particularly hazardous because as you "drag it in" on final your sink rate will begin to increase precipitously unless you pour in the power. Pulling back on the yoke will only exacerbate the problem, and at some point you might be amazed at how much power is required just to keep you from falling out of the sky.

The way to remain safely on the front side of the power curve is to lower the nose and add power. This is a bad idea, however, if you don't have sufficient altitude to keep from slamming into the ground. The goal, then, is to avoid venturing into the power curve's backside by maintaining proper airspeed on approach.

If you don't have a good feel for your airplane's power curve, climb to a safe altitude and experiment by reducing airspeed in 10-knot increments. Once you start to notice that it's taking more and more power to fly more slowly and maintain altitude, you know you've crossed from the front side of the power curve to the backside.

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