Will273

How To Determine Altitude?

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Say I want to fly a Piper Warrior 100 to maybe 300 miles or more...how would I determine the altitude to fly at...generally speaking...is there a rule of thumb to go by?

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58 minutes ago, Will273 said:

Say I want to fly a Piper Warrior 100 to maybe 300 miles or more...how would I determine the altitude to fly at...generally speaking...is there a rule of thumb to go by?

It's a good question, but because different countries have different regulations, we really need to know where you are flying and if you fly VFR or IFR.

You can also find this information for yourself by searching the Internet for

Examples:

For US flights, search for FAA VFR (or IFR) Altitudes.

For flights in ICAO territories, search for ICAO VFR (or IFR) Altitudes.

For CAA terrirories (Canada), search for CAA VFR (or IFR) Altitudes.

 

... and you quickly find the information you're looking for.

 

Remember, flight simulation mimics real world aviation, and all that info is available on the Internet for the price of a search.  It's certainly always fine to ask in the forums, but it takes time to get answers back while an Internet search gets you the information very quickly.  You'll also get the real answer your looking for whereas in the forums sometimes people misunderstand your question and/or provides an incorrect or incomplete answer resulting in more posts and more time for you to get the answer you're looking for.

My very best wishes!

 

 

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Thanks Dave...I should have mentioned I did do some searching but probably didn't use the correct terminology and looked in the wrong places. I'll try again using the terms you mentioned. I'm in the USA. Thanks again.

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44 minutes ago, Will273 said:

Thanks Dave...I should have mentioned I did do some searching but probably didn't use the correct terminology and looked in the wrong places. I'll try again using the terms you mentioned. I'm in the USA. Thanks again.

You bet!  Anytime my friend.

I understand how much of a struggle it can be for non-aviation types and new flight simmers, there is certainly a lot of terminology to get used to... but it's worth it. In fact, that's precisely why I provided a few search terms as examples, while I also crossed my fingers hoping you wouldn't consider my reply as one of those RTFM type posts.  I'll often reply in similiar fashion when referencing product manuals, but never with one of those disrespectful RTFM posts.

By the way, in my 36 years in this community, I don't think I've ever seen someone ask about the proper altitude for flying a GA plane, so I want to commend you my friend, NICELY DONE!  I wish more people would ask those types of questions.

 

My very best wishes for Happy Flights!

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3 hours ago, Will273 said:

Say I want to fly a Piper Warrior 100 to maybe 300 miles or more...how would I determine the altitude to fly at...generally speaking...is there a rule of thumb to go by?

If you are talking performance-wise, you would have to look at winds at various levels (I would not bother taking a Warrior above 10,000 feet), see which is more favourable wind-wise (no point in going high and punching into a 40kt headwind) and the height of the terrain you intend flying over.

Then consider what altitudes are available to you as Dave points out above.

As far as fuel flow and TAS go, in a Warrior I would teach a real student to use a "Block" TAS and fuel flow, as variations with height are pretty insignificant with small GA aircraft, it only complicates things too much.

Sounds involved, but takes a few minutes in reality.

Edited by DavidP

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2 hours ago, DavidP said:

If you are talking performance-wise, you would have to look at winds at various levels (I would not bother taking a Warrior above 10,000 feet), see which is more favourable wind-wise (no point in going high and punching into a 40kt headwind) and the height of the terrain you intend flying over.

Then consider what altitudes are available to you as Dave points out above.

As far as fuel flow and TAS go, in a Warrior I would teach a real student to use a "Block" TAS and fuel flow, as variations with height are pretty insignificant with small GA aircraft, it only complicates things too much.

Sounds involved, but takes a few minutes in reality.

1

Dave makes some good points!  Not to mention oxygen concerns. 

My very first "corporate" flying job was in a brand spanking new PA28 Warrior.  It only had 30 hours on it from the factory test flight hours and the delivery flight to the dealer in Kansas City.  

I'm going to assume you are in the U.S.  Here are the rules for VFR flight:

§91.159   VFR cruising altitude or flight level.

Except while holding in a holding pattern of 2 minutes or less, or while turning, each person operating an aircraft under VFR in level cruising flight more than 3,000 feet above the surface shall maintain the appropriate altitude or flight level prescribed below, unless otherwise authorized by ATC:

(a) When operating below 18,000 feet MSL and—

(1) On a magnetic course of zero degrees through 179 degrees, any odd thousand foot MSL altitude + 500 feet (such as 3,500, 5,500, or 7,500); or

(2) On a magnetic course of 180 degrees through 359 degrees, any even thousand foot MSL altitude + 500 feet (such as 4,500, 6,500, or 8,500).

(b) When operating above 18,000 feet MSL, maintain the altitude or flight level assigned by ATC.

For IFR flight, here is the rule for controlled airspace:

§91.179   IFR cruising altitude or flight level.

Unless otherwise authorized by ATC, the following rules apply—

(a) In controlled airspace. Each person operating an aircraft under IFR in level cruising flight in controlled airspace shall maintain the altitude or flight level assigned that aircraft by ATC. However, if the ATC clearance assigns “VFR conditions on-top,” that person shall maintain an altitude or flight level as prescribed by §91.159.

in other words, ATC will assign your altitude.  However, you can include an altitude in your flight plan and ATC will try to honor that request.  You need to file an altitude that does not include the "+ 500" added to the VFR rules.

From a practical, airplane performance view, I seldom flew the PA28 above 6000' on flights between St. Louis and Kansas City or Springfield MO, which are about 240 NMs apart and were two of my more common flights. The PA28 has a normally aspirated engine.  In other words, no turbocharger.  Above 6000' feet, you start seeing a drop in engine power (i.e., RPM). if you're carrying passengers, as I was, it can be a struggle to get that high.  Now, if I had a reason, say for the ride, to get on top of the clouds, or avoid/escape icing, that's another matter. Terrain could require a higher flight altitude as well..But you need to consider everything that does along with flying higher over or through terrain as well. 

Just some thoughts from years ago.  Hope this helps,

Rich Boll

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5 hours ago, DavidP said:

f you are talking performance-wise, you would have to look at winds at various levels

And David has pointed out the greatest influence for this question.

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Thanks Dave CT, Dave P, Rich and Frank! Since getting FSGRW recently I've noticed the high speed of winds at upper levels in the description of the weather reports but haven't flown that high yet. I'm aware of the directions to fly 0 -179 odd number altitudes and 180 - 359 even numbers but say for VFR and in the USA going from one regional airport to another one say 100 to 200 miles away...so far I haven't been using ATC but is that the only way to get your alitiude...to use ATC?

So far I'm just checking everything out...so to speak. Just learning how to use the Garmin and put in a flight plan, learning how to land "properly", making sure the instruments work correctly, checking out the real weather, sight seeing and generally not flying by the rules, etc.... all in no particular order. As for using the altitudes available to me...since I haven't been using ATC...they're all available...I just need to choose one but I see there's more to it than that which is fine and I want to learn and do things the right way this time around. From what I understand I don't need to use ATC for VFR if I don't want to...in the real world too I think...so I'd check the weather and see which direction the winds are blowing and choose an altitude based on which ones would work best and in my favor for the direction I want to fly? Something along those lines....maybe or maybe not? I think I need to start paying closer attention to the winds. Yea I'd use real weather...just to have it but didn't pay as much attention to it as I should but then I was just flying locally and sight seeing then coming back. I guess for longer trips and making a flight plan I'd need to take a closer look at the weather to determine my altitude...sounds like fun and I'm game. Flying is like putting a puzzle together...I'm checking out all the different pieces and seeing how they fit together...this is good stuff.

Edited by Will273

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Hi Will,

Other considerations would include the flight rules you are operating under (IFR or VFR), terrain consderations, weather in general (not just winds -- in a light SEP icing may be a major concern and it may be safer to climb above the worst of the icing, if you are VFR you will need to maintain visual conditions and (in most cases) sight of the surface etc). Airspace is a factor (especially if you are VFR) as you will need to plan to stay outside of any Class A airspace and possibly stay away from other controlled airspace (although I know it is generally easier to get a service/transit etc in the US than over here in the UK).

If you are IFR then you will need to comply with minimum safe altitudes along the route (and if you are flying airways, any minimum enroute altitudes etc).

However, I'm not an expert on the US regulations beyond knowing that things are generally a lot more relaxed over there!

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