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Sincetheearlydaysofflight,angleofattack(AOA)has

beenakeyaeronauticalengineeringparameterandis
fundamentaltounderstandingmanyaspectsofairplane
performance,stability,andcontrol.Virtuallyanybook
onthesesubjects,aswellasbasictextsand
instructionalmaterialwrittenforflightcrews,defines
AOAanddiscussesitsmanyattributes.

AOAcanbeusedformanyindicationsontheflight
decktoimproveflightcrewawarenessofairplanestate
relativetoperformancelimits.DedicatedAOA
indicatorshavebeenusedonmilitaryaircraftformany
years,butthisformofdisplayhasnotbeenusedoften
oncommercialairplanes.OnBoeingmodelscurrently
inproduction,AOAisusedtodrivestallwarning(stick
shaker),stallmargininformationonairspeedindicators,
andthepitchlimitindicator(PLI)ontheprimaryattitude
displays.AOAinformationiscombinedwithotherdata
anddisplayedasanintegralpartofflightdeckdisplays.
Recentaccidentsandincidentshaveresultedinnew
flightcrewtrainingprogramsforupsetrecoveryand
terrainavoidance,andtheseinturnhaveheightened
industryinterestinAOAasausefulflightparameterfor
commercialaviation.
TheU.S.NationalTransportationSafetyBoard(NTSB)
hasrecommendedvisualindicationofAOAin
commercialairplanes.Thisindicationmaytaketheform
ofadedicatedAOAindicatororotherimplementation,
suchasthePLI.
AdedicatedAOAindicatorshownontheprimaryflight
display(PFD)recentlyhasbeendevelopedin
cooperationwithairlinecustomers.Thenewindicatoris
offeredasanoptiononthe737600/700/800/900,
767400,and777atthistime.
Duringthedevelopmentofthenewindicator,
discussionswithairlines,theNTSB,andU.S.Federal
AviationAdministration(FAA)pilotsandengineers
providedauniqueopportunitytoexaminepotential
usesofAOAandthemanyexistingusesthathave
evolvedinrecentdecadesalongwithadvancesin
displayandindicationtechnology.
Thisarticlediscussesthefollowing:

BasicprinciplesofAOA.
AirplaneperformanceandAOA.
AOAmeasurement.
AOAindicationsandflightcrewproceduresin
currentBoeingproductionmodels.
5. DesignandusesofaseparateAOAindicator.
1.
2.
3.
4.

1.BASICPRINCIPLESOFAOA
AOAisoneofthemostimportantparametersfor
understandingairplaneperformanceandhandling(see
"WhatIsAngleofAttack?")becauseatypicalwinghas
alimitedrangeofanglesofattackoverwhichitcan
functionefficiently.Initssimplestform,liftisafunction
ofspeed,airdensity,wingarea,andAOA.Atagiven
airspeed,astheAOAofawingisincreased,liftalso
willincrease
(fig.1).Therefore,atthesameairspeed,aheavy
airplaneofthesameconfigurationmustflyatahigher
AOAthanalightone.Conversely,asanairplane
decelerates,theAOAmustbeincreasedtomaintain
thesamelift.So,inthenormaloperationalrange,there
isarelationshipamonglift,speed,andAOA.
ThisrelationshipwillchangeiftheAOAgetstoohigh
(fig.1).Theairflowingoverthewingwillseparatefrom
theuppersurface,resultinginalossoflift,orastall.It
shouldbenotedthatthisstallconditioncouldoccurata
widerangeofspeeds(dependingontheairplane
weightorloadfactor,orgloading)andatanyattitude
(dependingontheflightpathangle).Whatisimportant
istheAOA.Therefore,itisimperativetoknowwhenthe
wingisapproachingthestallAOAandtotakestepsto
avoidit.
However,manyotherparametersinfluencetheliftthat
awingproduces.Themostbasicistheconfigurationof
thewing,specificallythepositionofthetrailingedge
flaps,leadingedgeflapsorslats,andspoilers.Asthe
trailingedgeflapsareextended,thecurvature(or
camber)andareaofthewingareincreased,andthe
wingwillproducemoreliftatthesameAOA(fig.2).
Notethatalthoughthemaximumliftisincreased,the
AOAatwhichstalloccursisactuallylessbecausethe
wingcannotsustainthehigherliftlevelsuptothesame
AOA.Theairflowseparatesearlier.
Wingmountedspeedbrakesorspoilershavethe
oppositeeffect.TheyreducetheliftatagivenAOA
theyalsoreducethemaximumliftachievablebut,

surprisingly,increasetheAOAatwhichstalloccurs.
Leadingedgedevices,suchasKruegerflapsandslats,
permitthewingtooperateatahigherAOAbeforeit
stallsbydelayingtheflowseparation.Figure3
illustratesthisandtheeffectofcontamination,suchas
iceordents,ontheleadingedge.Contaminationcan
causetheairflowtoseparateatalowerAOA,causing
thewingtostallatalowerAOAthanexpected.While
theseeffectsareaccountedforintheairplanedesign
andmaintenanceprogram,itisimportanttoremember
thispotentialvariabilityinstallAOA(see"Winter
OperationsKeepItClean,"Airliner,Oct.Dec.1983).
Onmosttransportcategoryairplanes,theliftthatthe
wingproducesisalsoafunctionofMachnumber,
particularlyastheairplaneapproachestransonic
speedstypicalofcruiseflight(fig.4).Ofcourse,liftata
givenAOAwillincreasewithspeed,butevenatthe
sameairspeed,asMachnumberisincreased(the
speedofsoundchangeswithtemperature),liftwill
increase.
However,higherMachreducesthemaximumliftthe
wingcanattainandtheAOAatwhichstalloccurs.This
meansthatasgrossweight,altitude,orloadfactoris
increased,theresultantincreaseinMachnumberwill
causeastallatahigherspeedandlowerAOA.Thisis
trueevenattakeoffandlandingspeedswiththeflaps
down.
Thecenterofgravity(CG)alsoaffectstheliftthatthe
wingmustproduce.AstheCGmovesforward,the
nosedownmomentincreasesbecauseoftheairplane
weightandwinglift(fig.5).Therefore,thedownforceon
thehorizontaltailrequiredtotrimisincreased.This
meansthatthewingmustprovideenoughliftto
compensateforthedownloadonthetailinadditionto
theweightoftheairplane.NotethattheAOAofstallis
notchanged,buttheliftrequiredofthewingisgreater,
andthereforethestallspeedisincreased.
Thrustalsocanaffectliftinthreeways.First,the
componentofthrustthatactsintheliftdirectionoffsets
someoftheliftrequiredofthewing(fig.6).Therefore,
asthrustisincreased,theAOAfortrimmedflightis
reducedandthemaximumliftisincreased.Second,
thrustchangestheairflowaroundthewingandflaps,
whichdoesnotusuallyhavealargeeffectonjet
transportairplanes.Third,thrustaffectsairplanetrim,
usuallybyreducingthedownloadonthetail(see

previousparagraphonCG).
Theexamplescitedaboveshowthatmanyparameters
affecttherelationshipofliftandAOA.ForAOA
informationtobeusefultoaflightcrew,these
parametersmustbeconsideredandaccountedforin
theindicationsandassociatedcrewprocedures.
2.AIRPLANEPERFORMANCEANDAOA
Takeoff.Duringrotation,pitchangleisthecritical
parameterthatensurestailclearance.Oncethe
airplaneisairborneandatasufficientaltitudewhere
groundeffectandcrosswindsdonotaffectthesensor
reading,AOAwillprovidevalidinformation.
Duringtakeoffclimb,thereisnosingletargetAOAtofly
thatwillguaranteecertifiedtakeoffperformance.
TakeoffclimbAOAwillvarywithsuchfactorsas
airplanegrossweight,thrust,altitude,flapsetting,and
CG.Takeoffclimbspeeds(hence,AOA)arelimitedby
stallspeed,tailclearance,andminimumcontrol
speeds.Thehigherspeedandgreaterthrustofanall
enginetakeoffreducetheAOAsignificantlyrelativeto
anengineouttakeoffattheengineoutclimbspeed(V2
).
Thekeytooptimaltakeoffperformanceisto"flythe
speeds."Thetakeoffflightpaththatguarantees
clearanceofallobstaclesaheadiscalculatedbasedon
flightatthesespeeds.FollowingrotationatVR,V2is
theresultingengineoutspeedatanaltitudeof35ft
andisusuallyslowerthanthatforbestlifttodrag(L/D)
ratioorangleofclimb.However,ifthenoseweretobe
keptdownandtheairplaneacceleratedtohigher
speeds,shorttermclimbperformancewouldbe
sacrificedandacloseinobstaclemaynotbecleared.
Cruise.Rangeisafunctionofboththeaerodynamics
oftheairplaneandthefuelflowcharacteristicsofthe
engines.Aerodynamically,theminimumdragpoint
occursatthepointwheretheL/Disamaximum.But
thisvaluedependsonbothAOAandMachnumber,so
theoptimalAOAwillvaryasMachnumberischanged.
Thefuelflowcharacteristicsoftheenginesarenot
affectedbyAOA,buttheydodependonthethrust
required(drag),Machnumber,andtemperature.
Combiningthewingandenginecharacteristicsyields
thefuelmileageoftheairplane,sofuelmileageisa
strongfunctionofMachnumber.Figure7showsthe

fuelmileageofa757200atanaltitudeof35,000ftas
afunctionofgrossweightandMachnumber.Itcanbe
seenthattheoptimallongrangecruiseMachnumber
doesnotvarysignificantlyasgrossweight(hence,lift
andAOA)changes.Superimposedonthischartare
twolinesofconstantAOA.Itisapparentthatflyinga
constantAOAwillnotyieldoptimalperformance.Ifa
flightcrewtriedtoflyatargetAOAandtherewasan
errorofaslittleas0.5deg,thepenaltyinfuelmileage
couldbe3percentormore.
Windisamorefundamentalconsideration.Forbest
fuelmileageinaheadwind,theairplaneshouldbe
flownfasterthanthespeedforbestrangeinstillairin
atailwind,itshouldbeflownmoreslowly.Mostmodern
Boeingairplaneshaveaflightmanagementcomputer
(FMC)thataccountsforairplane,engine,andwind
characteristicsandcancomputetheoptimalspeedto
beflown.
Approachspeed.Approachspeediscriticaltolanding
performanceandisestablishedduringtheairplane
certificationprocess.Itisdeterminednotonlybymargin
abovestallspeedbutalsomaybeincreasedby
considerationofminimumcontrolspeedandtail
clearanceattouchdown.
Regulationsrequirethattheapproachspeedbeno
smallerthanaspecificmultipleofthestallspeed.
BecausestallspeedisafunctionofMachnumber,
stalllimitedapproachspeedwilloccuratadifferent
AOAatdifferentgrossweightsandaltitudes(fig.8).
Thoseairplanesthatdonotaccountforthevariationof
stallspeedwithMachnumbersettheapproachspeed
atthemostconservativealtitude.Thespeedsalso
allowforthemostadverseCG(forward)thatrequires
themostliftoutofthewing,resultinginthehigheststall
speedand,therefore,thehighestapproachspeed.
Inaddition,theapproachspeedcannotbesmallerthan
amultipleoftheminimumcontrolspeedinthelanding
configuration(Vmcl).Thisspeedisnotsignificantly
influencedbymovementoftheCG.So,duringan
approachattheaftCG,iftheflightcrewreducesspeed
toflyatthesameAOAasrequiredfortheforwardCG,
anapproachspeedbelowtheminimumcontrolspeed
mayresult.
Afurtherconsiderationistheclearanceoftheaftbody
fromthegroundastheairplanelands.Someairplanes,
particularlythosewithstretchedfuselages,have

increasedapproachspeedstoreducetheAOAand
hencethepitchangleontouchdown.Thisprovides
adequateclearancebetweenthebodyandtheground
atthemostcriticalCG.However,inrevenueservice,
CGisrarelyattheforwardlimit.So,iftheapproaches
wereflownonadailybasisbyreferencetoafixed
approachAOAbasedonamarginabovestall,atany
CGaftoftheforwardlimit,theprobabilityoftailstrike
wouldbegreaterthanthecurrentpracticeofusing
approachairspeeds.
Inaddition,variationsinthrustwillaffecttheapproach
AOAspeedrelationship.
Fromthediscussionabove,itcanbeseenthat
approachspeedmaybelimitedbymanydifferent
requirementsandthatnosingleAOAcanbetargeted
toensureproperspeedorlandingattitudemargins.
3.AOAMEASUREMENT
Theprevioussectiondealtwiththerelationship
betweentheaerodynamicsoftheairplaneandthetrue
AOAofthewing.Inpractice,thetrueAOAofthewing
isnotknown.Itonlycanbeestimatedbasedona
measuringdevicemountedsomewhereontheairplane.
Anysuchdevicehasinherenterrorsthatmustbe
addressed.
Whereverthedeviceislocated,itismeasuringtheflow
angleinitsownlocalvicinity,notatthewing.Stall
warningdeviceshavebeenmountedonthewing,but
mostmoderncommercialjetairplaneshavemovable
leadingedgesthatwouldinterferewithsuchan
installation.Mosthavethesensorlocatedonthe
fuselage,faraheadofthewing,reducingtheeffectof
changesinliftandconfiguration.Nearertothenoseof
theairplane,theairflowisrelativelycleanandthe
boundarylayeristhin,minimizingtherequiredprobe
height.
Evenatthenose,manyfactorscanaffectthe
relationshipbetweenthelocalAOAandtruewingAOA
(fig.9).Theangleofairflowaroundthenoseisnotthe
sameasatthewing.
Also,thesensitivitytochangesinAOAisgreater,soa
1degchangeintruewingAOAcausesalocalflow
changeatthenoseof1.5to2deg.Thetrailingedge
flappositionhasaninfluenceonatypicalAOAsensor
calibration,ashaslandinggearposition(inparticular,

thatofthenoselandinggeardoors).Machnumber
affectstheflowaroundthenoseandthereforechanges
thesensorcalibration.

Pitchingtheairplanecancauseerroneousreadingsat
thesensor.Whilethenoseispitchingup(asinaturn),
thelocalflowangleisreduced,causingthereadingto
betoolow.Althoughthesensorsareplacedto
minimizetheeffectofsideslip,itisnoteliminatedand
canbequitesignificantatsideslipanglesthatmay
occuronshortfinalapproachesorwithanengineout.
Evenvariationsinthecontouroftheskinnearthe
sensorcansubtlyaffectthelocalflowangle.Manyof
thesedesignchallengesalsoaffectpitotandstaticport
installationandaccuracy.
Thesensoritselfhaspotentialforerror.The
combinationofinstallationerror,zerobias,and
aerodynamicinaccuracycantotal0.5degormore.

Contaminationordamagecanalsoaffectthesensors
accuracy.
Forthemostpart,theeffectsdiscussedabovecanbe
compensatedforand,dependingontheairplane,many
havebeen.Itshouldbenoted,however,thateach
correctionhasitsowninherentuncertaintyandcanalso
causeerroneousreadingsiftheinputdataisincorrect.
Inthephilosophyof"keepitsimple,"thefewer
dependenciesonotherdata,themorerobusttheAOA
systemwillbe.Forexample,Machnumberaffectsthe
sensorcalibration.Whilethisrelationshipcouldbe
compensatedfor,thiswouldmakethesensoroutput
dependentongoodMachinformation.Iftheairspeed
datawereinaccurate,thecalculatedMachnumberand
thereforethecalibratedAOAreadingwouldbe
incorrect.ThiswouldaffecttheusefulnessofAOAin
theeventofanairspeedsystemfailure.Notethat
becausethesensorsarelocatednearthenoseandthe
airdataprobes,certainconditions,suchasradome
damageorloss,maycauseerroneousmeasurementof
AOAaswellasairspeed.
4.AOAINDICATIONSANDFLIGHTCREW
PROCEDURESINCURRENTBOEING
PRODUCTIONMODELS
AOAismostusefultotheflightcrewathighanglesof
attacktoshowthemargintostallorstallwarning.All
indicationsdrivenbyAOAstickshaker,PLI,and
speedtapeindicationsarerelatedtothisimportant
information.
Stickshaker.Anartificialstallwarningsystemis
requiredforairplanecertificationifthenaturalprestall
buffetcharacteristicsoftheairplaneareinsufficientto
warntheflightcrewofanimpendingstall.Thiswarning
mustbeinaformotherthanvisualtobeeffective,even
iftheflightcrewisnotlookingattheinstrumentpanel.
Beginningwithearlycommercialjetliners,standard
practicehasbeentoequiptheseairplaneswithastick
shakerasameansofstallwarning.Someairplanes
alsohaveemployedsticknudgersorstickpushersto
improvestallavoidanceandstallcharacteristics.All
theseindicationshavebeendrivenbyanAOA
threshold,whichisusuallyafunctionofflap
configuration,landinggearconfiguration,orboth.
BecauseoftheeffectofMachnumberonstallAOA,the
stallwarningAOAtypicallywassetataconservative

leveltoaccommodategrossweightandaltitude
variationsexpectedintheterminalarea.
Theearlystallwarningsystemthresholdswerenotset
tobeeffectiveatcruisealtitudesandspeedsbecause
theydidnotcorrectforMachnumber(fig.10).Thiskept
thesystemsimple.ThestickshakerwassetatanAOA
effectiveforlowaltitudesbutattoohighavaluefor
cruise.Naturalstallbuffetwasfoundtogivesatisfactory
warningathigherMachnumbers.
LaterstallwarningsystemsusedMachnumberfrom
thepitotorstaticairdatasystemtoadjustthestall
warningAOAthresholddownasMachnumber
increased.Thisprovidedtheflightcrewwithastall
warningrelatedtotheactualavailableperformance.
However,italsomadethestallwarningsystem
dependentongoodpitotandstaticdata,afactorthat
willbeconsideredinthenextsectiononthededicated
AOAindicator.
Itshouldbenotedfromfigure10thatthestallwarning
scheduledoesnotfollowthebuffetboundaryatvery
highMachnumbers.ThebuffethereiscausedbyMach
buffet,ortoohighaspeed.Settingthestallwarning
systemtoactivateatthispointmayleadtheflightcrew
tobelievetheairplaneisnearstallandincrease,rather
thandecrease,speed.
Pitchlimitindicator.ThePLIoriginallywasdeveloped
aspartofanindustryefforttoaddresswindshear
escapetraining.Becausestallwarningisprimarilya
functionofAOA,thePLIshowsAOAmargintostall
warning,eventhoughitispartofthepitchattitude
display(fig.11).Thedistancefromtheairplanesymbol
tothePLIiscalculatedfromthedifferencebetweenthe
AOAoftheairplaneandtheAOAatwhichstallwarning
willoccur.Thisprovidestheflightcrewwithgood
situationalawareness,enablingthemtomonitor
airplaneattitudeinpitchandrollrelativetothehorizon,
whilesimultaneouslyshowingwhethertheairplaneis
approachingitsmaximumAOA.Ingeneral,whenthe
airplanesymbolandtheamberPLIbarsmeet,thestall
warningsystemwillactivate.
However,thePLIalsoislimitedto30degofpitch
attitude,regardlessofAOA.IfAOAorAOAmarginto
stickshakerweretobeusedasthefirstandprimary
focusoftheflightcrewduringwindshearescapeor
terrainavoidanceprocedures,extremelyhighpitch
attitudescouldbereachedbeforestallwarningifthe

maneuverisenteredwithsufficientspeed.Therefore,
thePLIshowsthelesserofeithermargintostick
shaker,or30degofpitch.
BecausestallAOAisafunctionofMachnumber,aPLI
onairplaneswithfixedstallwarningscheduleswould
displayanexcessivelylargemarginattypicalcruise
Machandaltitude.Toavoidthismisleadingdisplay,PLI
wasavailableonlywithflapsextendedwhenitwas
introducedinthemid1980s.Laterairplaneshave
employedstallwarningschedulesthatadjustthestall
warningthresholdasafunctionofMachnumber.The
designofthe777,717,and767400ERhastaken
advantageofthisandwilldisplaythePLIfulltimewhen
flapsaredown,aswellaswhenflapsareupifspeedor
loadfactorcausesstallmargintodecreasetoanAOA
within1.3gofstallwarning.
Workiscurrentlyunderwaytointroducethistypeof
PLIindicationonothermodels.Recentchangestothe
757and767enablethePLItobedisplayedwithflaps
up.
Speedtapeindications.Soonaftertheintroductionof
thePLI,averticalscaleairspeedindicatorwas
developedandaddedtoelectronicflightdisplays.This
offeredtheopportunitytocalculateandplaceairspeed
relateddatasuchasmaximum,minimum,
maneuvering,andreferencespeedsontheairspeed
instrument(fig.11).AllBoeingmodelscurrentlyin
productionhavethiscapability.
Ofparticularinterestaretheminimumspeedamber
andredbands,orbarberpole.Atlowspeedson
Boeingdesignedairplanescurrentlyinproduction,
theseindicationsarebasedonsensedAOAandthe
AOAmargintostickshaker.AthigherMachnumbers,
mostairplaneswithfixedAOAstallwarningschedules
showmarginstostickshakerormargintoinitialbuffet,
whichevercorrespondstothehighestspeed.Onthese
airplanes,themargintobuffetathigherMachnumbers
iscalculatedbytheFMC.
Onnewermodels,suchasthe777and767400,the
amberandredbandsshowmargintostallwarningat
alltimesbecausethestallwarningschedulegenerally
followstheinitialbuffetboundaryathigherspeedsupto
cruise.Thepositionoftheamberandredbandsis
alwaysafunctionofAOAmargintostallwarning.
Thespeedtapeisdesignedtoprovidetheflightcrew

withsituationalawarenessoftheflightenvelope.It
showsthecrewwheretheairplanespeedisrelativeto
thelimits(i.e.,maximumplacardspeedsorminimum
stallwarningspeed,aswellasthemaneuvering
capabilityavailable).
5.DESIGNANDUSESOFASEPARATEAOA
INDICATOR
Boeingandseveraloperatorsworkedtogetherto
developthedisplayformatforanoptionalAOA
indicator(fig.12).Theupperrightlocationwaschosen
asonethatcanbeaccomplishedwithoutsignificant
rearrangementoftheexistingPFDorelectronicflight
displayformats.Theindicatoritselfconsistsofan
analogscaleandpointer,anddigitalrepresentation
similartodisplaysofmanyotherparametersthroughout
theflightdeck.
StallwarningAOAisshownwitharedtickmark,which
willchangepositionasafunctionofMachnumberfor
thoseairplaneswithMachdependentstallwarning
schedules.Agreenapproachreferencebandisshown
wheneverlandingflapsareselected.Therangeofthe
approachreferencebandaccountsfornormally
expectedvariationsinCG,thrust,sideslip,andother
considerations.
ManyAOAindicatorsusedinthepasthavebeenofthe
"normalized"type,whereAOAisshowninarbitrary
unitsandscaledsothatzeroloadfactorisshownasan
AOAofzeroandstallisshownasanAOAofone.
NormalizedAOAonacommercialjetlinerwouldrequire
thatMachnumberbeintroducedintothecalculationof
AOAbecausestallAOAandbuffetmarginsarea
functionofMachnumber.
TheindicatordevelopedshowsbodyAOAindegrees
andisnotnormalized,whichisrelatedtothesecond
objectiveabove,thattheindicatorbeusefulwhenpitot
orstaticdata,andthereforeMachcalculations,are
unreliablebecauseofblockageorafaultinthesystem.
Thepointerofanormalizedindicatorinthiscondition
wouldbehaveerratically,makingtheindicator
unusable.Withthenonnormalizeddesign,theposition
oftheneedleisafunctiononlyofsensedAOA.Thered
tickmarkforstallwarningmaybehaveerraticallyina
pitotorstaticfailurestate,asmaystickshaker,PLI,
andspeedtapeamberandredbands.However,the
AOAneedleanddigitswillremainstable,andthe
indicatoritselfstillwillbeusefulasabackupfor

unreliableairspeed,providedtheAOAvanesare
undamaged.
AvarietyofpotentialusesforAOAwereexamined
duringthedesignofthenewAOAindicator:
Improvedsituationalawarenessandflightcrew
training.
AOAbackupindicationfollowingpitotorstatic
systemfailures.
Referenceduringupsetrecovery,windshear
escape,andterrainavoidancemaneuvers.
IndicationofmaximumL/Dorrange,detectionof
weighterrors,andacheckoffuelconsumption
duringcruise.
Crosschecktodetectweightorconfiguration
errorsonapproachtoreducetheprobabilityoftail
strikesonlanding.
AOAcanbeusedforsomeofthesepurposes,butit
doesnotworkaswellforothers.Fromthestandpointof
flightoperations,someofthegoalscanbemetwith
certaincaveatsthattakeintoaccounttheprinciplesand
limitationsofAOAmeasurementandaerodynamic
performanceofmoderncommercialjetairplanes.
Improvedsituationalawarenessandflightcrew
training.ThereisadesiretouseAOAinformationto
increasetheflightcrewsunderstandingofthe
physicsofflightandtheirgeneralawarenessofthe
stateofthewingduringnormalandnonnormal
conditions.Withincertainlimitations,thedisplay
providesthisindicationinaclear,unambiguousformat.
ThedegreetowhichAOAcanbeusedtoincrease
knowledgeandairmanshipdepends,ofcourse,onthe
approachtakenbytheairlineintrainingitsflightcrews
andtheuseoftheindicatorintrainingscenariosfor
nonnormalprocedures.Someofthelimitationsare
discussedbelow.

AOAbackupindicationfollowingpitotorstatic
systemfailures.TheAOAinstrumentdescribedinthis
articleisusefulasabackupforunreliableairspeed
indicationcausedbypitotorstaticsourceblockage
becausethecalculationofindicatedAOAisnotgreatly
affectedbypitotorstaticpressureinputsforits
calibration,andthedisplayedvaluehasnotbeen
normalized.
Pitotorstaticsystemfailurerequirestheflightcrewto
takeseveralfundamentalstepstoresolvetheproblem
(see"ErroneousFlightInstrumentInformation,"Aero
no.8,Oct.1999):
Recognizeanunusualorsuspectindication.
Keepcontroloftheairplanewithbasicpitchand
powerskills.
Takeinventoryofreliableinformation.
Findormaintainfavorableflyingconditions.
Getassistancefromothers.
Usechecklists.

Recognitionofaproblemwillbeaccomplishedby
instrumentscanningandcrosscheckpracticesorcrew
alerts,dependingonthedesignofthesysteminthe
airplane.Inthisrespect,AOAinstrumentscanbeuseful
asanadditionalcrosscheck.
Presentproceduresforunreliableairspeedcallfor
flyingtheairplanebyreferencetopitchattitudes,and
referthepilotstoreferencetablesshowingpitch
attitudesforvariousconfigurations,weights,and
altitudesthatwillresultinsafeanglesofattackand
speeds.AOAcouldbeusefuliftherelevantdatais
includedinthepitchandpowertablesthatalreadyexist
inthenonnormalchecklistprocedures.AOAwouldbe
mostusefulinflyingtheairplaneinmultiplefailure
conditionswhereallpitotorstaticsourcesareaffected,
makingallairspeedindicatorsunreliable.
Careshouldbetakenwhenflyingtheairplaneby
referencetoAOAinlieuofairspeed.Controlshouldbe
madebyreferencetopitchattitude,usingAOAasa
crosschecktoensurethatthepitchattituderesultsin
thedesiredspeedorAOA.AttemptingtofollowAOAor
speedindicationstoocloselywithoutstabilizingthe
airplaneinpitchcanleadtoanoscillatoryflightpath.
Referenceduringupsetrecovery,windshear
escape,andterrainavoidancemaneuvers.
Windshearescapeandterrainavoidancemaneuvers
requireimmediatechangeinpitchattitudeandthrust,
followedbymonitoringofthesituationandfurther
increasesinpitchattitudeifneeded,whileavoiding
stickshakeractivation.ThePLIwasdeveloped
primarilywiththesepurposesinmindandworkswell.
Onallcurrentproductionmodels,PLIisshownwhen
flapsaredown.Atthistime,PLIisavailablewithflaps
retractedonthe717,767400,777,andMD11.Work
isunderwaytomakethiscapabilityavailableonother
Boeingdesignedmodelscurrentlyinproduction.The
firststepsinwindshearescapeandterrainavoidance
proceduresinvolveapplyingmaximumcertifiedthrust
andcontrolofairplanepitchattitudetoaninitialtarget,
whilehonoringstallwarning.AOAmargintostick
shaker,whethershownwiththePLIortheAOAdisplay,
isasecondaryreferenceduringthispartofthe
maneuver,nottheprimarytarget.Asmentionedinthe
sectiononPLI,pitchingupbysolereferencetoAOA
basedindicationscanresultinexcessivelyhighpitch
attitudesifthemaneuverisenteredatsufficientlyhigh
speeds.BecausetheAOAdisplayisseparatefromthe
pitchattitudedisplay,itdoesnotprovideprotection

againsthighpitchattitudesiftheindicatorisusedas
theflightcrewsprimaryfocusortargetduringsuch
maneuvers.Forupsetrecovery,eitherthePLIorthe
redstallwarningmarkontheAOAindicatormaybe
usedtoassessthemargintostallwarning.
IndicationofmaximumL/Dorrange,detectionof
weighterrors,andacheckoffuelconsumption
duringcruise.Asshowninthesectiononairplane
performance,AOAisnottheappropriateparameterfor
optimizingcruiseflight,becauseofthestronginfluence
ofMachnumberonairplaneperformance.Because
AOAisnotverysensitivetospeedorweightchanges
atcruisespeeds,evenlargegrossweighterrorsmay
notbedetectable.A0.5degerrorinAOAisequivalent
to30,000lbona757200,orapproximately14percent
ofthemaximumtakeoffweight.
Crosschecktodetectweightorconfiguration
errorsonapproachtoreducetheprobabilityoftail
strikesonlanding.AOAcanbeusedduringapproach
asanextracrosscheckforerrorsinconfiguration,
weight,orreferencespeedcalculation.Proximityofthe
barberpoletothereferencespeedontheairspeed
tapecanbeusedinasimilarmannerbecauseitis
basedonAOAmargintostickshaker.However,for
eithermethod,theerrorsmustbelargeenoughthat
theyarenotmaskedbyotherfactors.
NormalvariationsinAOAasaresultoftheregulatory
requirementsonapproachspeed,aswellasthose
causedbydifferencesinthrust,CG,sideslip,andthe
installedaccuracyoftheAOAmeasurementsystem,
mayacttogethertomaskallbutlargeerrorsinweight
orconfiguration.Thesefactorsaretakenintoaccountin
determiningthesizeofthegreenapproachreference
band.Tokeepthesizeofthegreenbandfrom
becomingtoolarge,thesevariationswererootsum
squaredbecauseofthelowprobabilitythattheywould
alladdinthesamedirectionatanyonetime.The
resultinggreenbandisabout2degwideforthe777
and3degforthe737.ThebandiscenteredatanAOA
equivalenttoVref+5kt,assuminganominalgross
weight,midCG,nosideslip,astabilized3deg
glideslopethrustlevel,andnosystemerror.
A20,000lbweighterrorona757,correspondingto
approximately10percentofmaximumlandinggross
weightorabouta40percenterrorinpayload,yieldsa
changeinAOAof1.7deg.So,itcanbeseenthateven
relativelylargeweighterrorsmaynotbeenoughto

movetheneedleoutofthegreenband.Conversely,it
isalsopossiblethatflyingattheproperspeedand
configurationmayyieldanAOAthatisoutsidethe
referenceband.Figure13illustrateshowerrorscanbe
maskedorcanceledoutbyvariationintheother
parameters.
Fortheseandotherreasons,theAOAindicatorcanbe
usedasanadditionalmeanstocheckforlargeerrorsin
weightorconfiguration,butitshouldnotbeusedasa
substituteforcurrentprocedurestoestablishapproach
speedsandverifyconfigurations.Todeterminethe
approachspeedbasedsolelyonplacingAOAinthe
greenbandcancausesituationsofexcessivelyhighor
lowapproachspeeds,dependingonavarietyof
circumstances.
SUMMARY
AOAisalongstandingsubjectthatisbroadlyknown
butoneforwhichthedetailsarenotbroadly
understood.WhileAOAisaveryusefulandimportant
parameterinsomeinstances,itisnotusefulandis
potentiallymisleadinginothers.
TherelationshipbetweenAOAandairplanelift
andperformanceiscomplex,dependingon
manyfactors,suchasairplaneconfiguration,
Machnumber,thrust,andCG.
AOAinformationismostimportantwhen
approachingstall.
AOAisnotaccurateenoughtobeusedto
optimizecruiseperformance.Machnumberis
thecriticalparameter.
AOAinformationcurrentlyisdisplayedon
Boeingflightdecks.Theinformationisusedto
drivethePLIandspeedtapedisplays.
AnindependentAOAindicatorisbeingoffered
asanoptionforthe737,767400,and777
airplanes.TheAOAindicatorcanbeusedto
assistwithunreliableairspeedindicationsasa
resultofblockedpitotorstaticportsandmay
provideadditionalsituationandconfiguration
awarenesstotheflightcrew.

MilitaryApplicationsofAOA
JOHNE.CASHMAN
DIRECTOR
FLIGHTOPERATIONS

BOEINGCOMMERCIALAIRPLANESGROUP
BRIAND.KELLY
TECHNICALFELLOW
FLIGHTCREWOPERATIONSINTEGRATION
BOEINGCOMMERCIALAIRPLANESGROUP
BRIANN.NIELD
MANAGER
AERODYNAMICSENGINEERING
BOEINGCOMMERCIALAIRPLANESGROUP
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