If the cruise speed is >80kts on the downwind leg but I can only extend flaps in the white arc, am I right in saying I need to get to the white arc, even if I'm on - for example - 100kts?

For reference, note the 'white arc' on this airspeed indicator.

enter image description here

  • 8
    $\begingroup$ What airplane are you talking about, and how much flap are you adding? $\endgroup$
    – GdD
    Commented Sep 19, 2019 at 15:08
  • $\begingroup$ I don't entirely understand your question. Are you asking whether extending flaps above the white arc is acceptable? Or something else? What has 100kts got to do with it? $\endgroup$
    – Jamiec
    Commented Sep 19, 2019 at 15:09
  • 5
    $\begingroup$ "If I can only extend flaps in the white arc, do I need to be in the white arc to extend flaps?" Is that really your question? $\endgroup$
    – abelenky
    Commented Sep 19, 2019 at 22:55
  • $\begingroup$ Possible duplicate of aviation.stackexchange.com/q/5121/7147 $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 20, 2019 at 17:53

2 Answers 2


Yes you must slow down to the white arc, or whatever your flap extension speed is for a given condition, regardless. If you are 10kts above the white arc and drop flaps anyway, it's not going to make the airplane come apart, and if you did it once, slap yourself on the wrist and don't do it again. It's putting stress on the flap attachments beyond what they are certified for, and eventually if it's done repetitively over a long period you might start seeing cracks in hinge arms, brackets etc.

On transport airplanes if you do that you get an overspeed warning and you are expected to declare the incident which will trigger a fairly straightforward visual inspection of the flaps. On a small a/c, if nothing is bent, don't worry about it if it was just a few knots over, but don't keep doing it. If it was WAY over, like 20 or 30 kt above the white arc, you should tell whomever owns or maintains the airplane about it so someone who knows what to look for can look it over.

In fact, as a matter of good airmanship, you should get into the habit of being well below the top of the white arc, within reason, before extending flaps (I slow down to not much above the flaps up approach speed before dropping flaps - it's a matter of being on top of how your aircraft flies, and staying ahead of it, mentally). This is simply a matter of taking care of the machinery and not beating the crap out of it; it'll mean the difference between having to replace hinge bushings at 5000 hrs for the pilot who takes care of the equipment vs 2000 hrs for the pilot who treats his/her plane like a mule.

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ I suspect one also shouldn’t beat the crap out of their mule. $\endgroup$
    – KRyan
    Commented Sep 20, 2019 at 14:12
  • $\begingroup$ @KRyan it depends - is it a rented mule? :D $\endgroup$
    – FreeMan
    Commented Sep 20, 2019 at 18:59
  • $\begingroup$ Yep the mule can eventually get pissed and kick you... $\endgroup$
    – John K
    Commented Sep 20, 2019 at 19:19

It depends upon what the manufacturer recommends on the form of the AFM in cockpit placards. Certain aircraft do allow extension of the flaps outside the white arc for certain flap settings. For example the Cessna 182T is placarded for 10° flaps at or below 140 KIAS, 20° flaps at or below 120 KIAS and 30° flaps at or below Vfe of 100 KIAS, despite the fact that the airspeed indicator is placarded for a flap operating range of 41-100 KIAS. Check in your Airplane Flight Manual under the section for design limitations.

  • $\begingroup$ It is quite likely that the OP's aircraft allows some flap extension at 100 KIAS. But if you don't know how much, then you really have no choice but to stick to the white arc. But the flap extension requirements is definitely something the PIC of an aircraft should know. $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 20, 2019 at 19:33
  • $\begingroup$ @David Schwartz that’s all been determined during design and flight test and should be listed in the operating limitations section of the Airplane Flight Manual. $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 20, 2019 at 20:57

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