True Airspeed versus Indicated Airspeed

June, 9, 2021 by Ruan M.

To start off we first need to know what is True Airspeed? Well, it is pretty simple it is the airspeed that your aircraft is moving through air. Now that we know that we can move onto the next portion.

Why are they different? Well the aircraft speed indicator measures pressure not speed. Your airspeed indicator will read very accurate at sea level with perfect conditions but if you add weather along with the aircraft climbing it starts reading inaccurate speeds. That is because the airspeed indicator shows a slower speed due to density increasing based on the altitude and air changes. That is the reason why you cannot directly measure true airspeed.

Now that we know why we can’t accurately measure true airspeed we need to know why does it matter? Well put simple if you use indicated airspeed to calculate fuel burn, time to destination etc you will be way off and that is why true airspeed is so important. Did you know that cruise performance charts use True Airspeed?

6-14-3 — As the altitude of aircraft increases, so will the difference between IAS and GS. Below are some very “ball-park” figures which can be used for reference. With the aircraft flying at

– 250kts IAS with no wind
– 3000ft ~ 260kts GS (+10)
– 6000ft ~ 270kts GS (+20)
– 9000ft ~ 290kts GS (+40)
– 12000ft ~ 300kts GS (+50)

There we can see a increase in speed from the set 250 knots True Airspeed as we climb through altitudes.

Refrences: BoldMethod

Ruan M. is a contributor for the IFATC Education Group. He is 15 year old avid Infinite flight simmer and Air Traffic Controller who has been part of Infinite Flight since 2015. He currently resides in South Africa with a second home in the Kingdom of Bahrain. He is an IFATC specialist applying for radar training.