The Practical Value of the General Aviation Light Airplane.

The General Aviation light airplane is an efficient transportation vehicle for transporting four to eight people and a reasonable amount of luggage. At least 80 percent of general aviation flying is done for business or commercial purposes. Thus clearly our light airplanes are saving time and money for their owners and pilots. That’s what especially business flying is about.

Higher Aerodynamic Efficiency = Cleaner Airplanes.

As the price of aviation gasoline goes up, aerodynamic efficiency plays an increasingly important part in operating costs of the light airplane. The more aerodynamically clean the airplane, and the smaller its frontal drag area, the more efficient it is in service. There is plenty of scope here for improvement through better, more efficient aerodynamic design, construction, production-methods, and better maintenance and upkeep once the airplane is in service.

Different Speed Regimes

Most of our cross-country light airplanes spend their flying-time cruising at 75 percent or less power at altitudes of between 4,000 and 11, 000 feet. Experience has shown that for different purposes there are different practical speed ranges.

  1. The most economical is the 120 to 150 mph range. Airplanes flying at cruise-speed in this range can be practical, economical travelers. These airplanes today look and perform much as they did 20 or more years ago. They also have several times more aerodynamic parasite drag than they should have. Their speed-range is about the minimum necessary to get any advantages from the airplane.
  2. To go even a little faster than 200 mph costs a lot more. Therefore, the 150 to 200 mph cruise-range is still what most owners/pilots settle for. There usually is enough additional power and speed to get to most places within 500 miles the same day. These airplanes often also could, and certainly should, have a lot less drag.
  3. The next step is the 200 to 250 mph cruise-speed range. This is the range for the most expensive singles and twins. This is also the class of airplane where streamlining and drag reduction are of utmost importance.

More Speed Wanted.

When it comes to the improvement of the light airplane, increased cruise-speed is often THE main aim. Most private/business pilots want speedy (that is, faster) efficient airplanes suitable for business but also for family travel and business flying. Sheer speed and its attendant other performance advantages for both business and private flying is the new touchstone. However, higher cruise-speed is expensive. Higher speed costs money in the form of fuel burned. Thus we need to reach a higher performance level at the same or preferably less fuel cost. And that’s exactly where high parasite drag comes in.

The New Composite Airplanes

It will be very interesting to see how the appearance on the market of the various new composite airplanes will change the thinking and practices of the established airplane manufacturers in the United States and abroad. A lot will depend on how much pressure for low-drag airplanes there will be from you, the buyers, owners, and pilots. Market pressure, or market demand I believe it is called.

About This Book

In this book we’ll discuss parasite drag. We’ll look at where it comes from, and what it may be costing you on your airplane. We’ll also take a look at what drag-reduction can do for your and for any other airplane. We'll look into the money and time-savings possible with drag-reduction, and also important, the safety-aspects of drag-reduction.

While we do point out the "draggy" areas of your airplane, we are not going into how you can specifically decrease its the drag.

First, as owner of a certified airplane there is very little the FAA lets you get away with.

However, there may well be a good deal of work you can do or have done in the way of regular upkeep and maintenance. A good look at the transient airplanes at the yearly Oshkosh Fly-In makes that very clear.

Second, there are many mod shops that offer a good number of well thought-out, well-designed, and certified modifications for decreasing your airplane's parasite drag. If you decide to accept their help, they are willing and able to tell and show you what is possible, and at what price. Then you can decide what to do.

Third, airplane owners can demand higher efficiency airplane's from the manufacturers.


"The increasing cost of flying is a significant threat to

the long-term survival of General Aviation."

A meaningful statement from the October 11, 1999 issue, page 50, of AVIATION WEEK AND SPACE TECHNOLOGY magazine. Quoted by permission.