Recovery From Jet Airplane Overspeed Conditions

A pilot must be aware of all the conditions that could lead to exceeding the airplane’s maximum operating speeds. Good attitude instrument flying skills and good power control are essential.

The pilot should be aware of the symptoms that will be experienced in the particular airplane as the VMO or MMO is being approached. These may include:
  • Nose-down tendency and need for back pressure or trim.
  • Mild buffeting as airflow separation begins to occur after critical Mach speed.
  • Activation of an overspeed warning or high speed envelope protection.

The pilot’s response to an overspeed condition should be to immediately slow the airplane by reducing the power to flight idle. It will also help to smoothly and easily raise the pitch attitude to help dissipate speed. The use of speed brakes can also aid in slowing the airplane. If, however, the nose-down stick forces have progressed to the extent that they are excessive, some speed brakes will tend to further aggravate the nose-down tendency. Under most conditions, this additional pitch down force is easily controllable, and since speed brakes can normally be used at any speed, they are a very real asset. If the first two options are not successful in slowing the airplane, a last resort option would be to extend the landing gear, if possible. This creates enormous drag and possibly some nose up pitch. This would be considered an emergency maneuver. The pilot transitioning into jet airplanes must be familiar with the manufacturers’ recommended procedures for dealing with overspeed conditions contained in the FAA-approved Airplane Flight Manual for the particular make and model airplane.

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