In countries that use QFE rather than QNH (such as China), how often will a pilot set the QFE setting on their altimeter during flight? Is it only when they intend to land at an airfield, or does it get set for the nearest airfield/aerodrome and updated when entering a new airfields's airspace?

I understand that in the US, QFE is primarily used for airshows and aerobatic competitions, which are presumably operating out of a single airfield and therefore wouldn't be changed in flight.

  • $\begingroup$ @ymb1: There is only one answer that includes this topic, and this is not the selected one. $\endgroup$ – mins Jul 19 '17 at 17:53
  • $\begingroup$ Which kind of aviation? GA? $\endgroup$ – mins Jul 19 '17 at 17:54
  • $\begingroup$ I'm primarily interested in GA I suppose, as I'm curious how often a pilot would physically set their altimeter(s) to the appropriate QFE setting. $\endgroup$ – selectstriker2 Jul 19 '17 at 18:03
  • $\begingroup$ But I would be interested in commercial aviation answers too. A separate but similar question would how often pilots in these conditions would switch between say QNE and QFE in flight. $\endgroup$ – selectstriker2 Jul 19 '17 at 18:12
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    $\begingroup$ @ymb1 Not remotely a duplicate. What is being asked here isn't being answered there. $\endgroup$ – Ralph J Jul 19 '17 at 18:54

To answer the question for the UK; once at most.

In the UK, QFE is used in the circuit by 65% of pilots. It may be given to you when you first contact the tower, whether you ask for it or not. Most of the airfields in the UK are within a couple of hundred feet of MSL, so I'll sometimes set it on my second altimeter when I'm coming into a field that is unusually high, just as a reminder.

RPS now, that really is useless.

  • $\begingroup$ To add some more context - most pilots will only dial in QFE when either knowingly staying in the circuit (for practice/testing/whatever) or when the landing airfield is in sight. $\endgroup$ – Dan Jul 20 '17 at 15:14

You don't use QFE or QNH in an airspace, you use it for a purpose.

QFE is rarely used in the US, other places in the world it's primarily used for landing, although that's personal preference (I use QNH). You set QNH on the ground at your departure airfield using the local setting then update QNH on route, when approaching an airfield for a landing you would use that airfield's QNH setting as given to you over the radio or from an information broadcast.

The only time I could see setting QFE more than once would be in the case of a diversion, if you needed to fly to another airfield you'd need to go back to QNH, then set the local QFE at the other airfield. This is extra workload and could be a forgotten step, which one of the reasons I prefer QNH for landing - it's one less thing to do.

  • $\begingroup$ Is QFE a thing of the past, in countries where it was commonly used? I think Europe GA pilots used it often for landing and local flying. $\endgroup$ – mins Jul 19 '17 at 17:59
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    $\begingroup$ my understanding is that China still uses QFE. Russia is moving towards QNH according to this article (dated Feb 2017): flightservicebureau.org/big-change-russia-finally-moving-to-qnh $\endgroup$ – selectstriker2 Jul 19 '17 at 18:04
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    $\begingroup$ It's still very commonly used in western Europe by GA pilots when landing @mins, I don't know about the big boys though. The UK still uses overhead joins, which is archaic IMO, but I guess if it ain't broke.... $\endgroup$ – GdD Jul 19 '17 at 18:26
  • $\begingroup$ What's the difference between overhead join and, say French airfield pattern integration, which if I'm not wrong is at the crosswind or downwind leg? Is this worth a new question? $\endgroup$ – mins Jul 19 '17 at 18:53
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    $\begingroup$ The French joining procedure is the same as the UK one as far as I know @mins. I haven't done it much there as I almost always have flown into towered airfields and been sequenced in. $\endgroup$ – GdD Jul 19 '17 at 21:39

95% of all airports in China are now "QNH" qualified, except some small military airports, thus we don't use QFE most of the time.


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