I want to attempt max range flights in a single engine piston airplane using pressure pattern navigation. My goal is to achieve greater efficiency than what is published in the POH while still using common cruise settings (ex. 65% at a LOP setting or as published in the POH, usually ROP). I know pressure pattern flying is employed by GA pilots on long range ferry flights (to Hawaii, for example) but I cannot find practical guidance on how to plan such a flight. There is plenty of theory and anecdotal information online, and I've read most of it, but very little in the way of practical instruction or calculations.

How would one go about applying PP principles to an actual flight? My objective is to build a front end user interface using live weather data to plan flights using PP principles.

Hypothetical flight:
Tucson, AZ to McCook, NE at or below 12,500' in an unpressurized 155 KTAS single engine plane with a ~700nm range. I chose cities that were near the hypothetical plane's max range...could be any city pair.

GA - little piston plane
LOP - lean of peak EGT
ROP - rich of peak EGT

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Just as a side note, usually the "maximum range" figures published by aircraft manufacturers don't account for the FAA minimum 30 minutes (or 45, depending how you conduct the flight) of reserve fuel when landing. If you are wanting to attempt this flight in reality, make sure you don't end up landing with empty tanks. $\endgroup$ – Ron Beyer Sep 8 '16 at 16:53
  • $\begingroup$ Good point. A success indicator could be a flight that exceeds the max range as planned using tradational methods while still having legal reserves available upon passing the published max range. $\endgroup$ – acpilot Sep 8 '16 at 16:58
  • $\begingroup$ @acpilot I believe airlines do that when flying east-bound across the Pacific, they might be using proprietary software to chart the route that yields the highest average tail-wind. A winds chart might do the trick as well. Interesting topic though. +1 $\endgroup$ – ymb1 Sep 8 '16 at 17:03
  • $\begingroup$ @ymb...agree. That validates the idea that someone can develop their own calculation and use it for GA. $\endgroup$ – acpilot Sep 8 '16 at 17:04

Here is an interesting slide show that may be of some help.

The FAA still does (although extremely rarely from my understanding), issue a flight navigator rating. This rating dates back to the early days before avionics were as sophisticated as they are today. The FAA publishes this handbook (for the rating), Chapter 15 covers pressure pattern navigation and may be what you are looking for.

This document on pressure patterns from a weather standpoint may also be of interest.

  • $\begingroup$ I downloaded the Nav Handbook some time ago and read through ch15 a few times. Good info. I'll look at the slideshow when I get to a computer. $\endgroup$ – acpilot Sep 8 '16 at 18:12

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