What is a practical definition density altitude – one that would clearly explain the concept to a general aviation pilot-in-training?

Your aviation weather consulting team has been tasked by a client to prepare a short training document on the importance of density altitude to general aviation fixed-wing pilots in training. We have already explored the dependence of air density on pressure, temperature, and humidity. Density altitude is a specific indicator of how the air’s density affects aircraft performance.

Review the following web resources on density altitude and its effects on flying:

https://www.weather.gov/media/publications/front/12jul-front.pdf – article from NOAA, explaining density altitude, and why a combination of specific words starting with the letter “H” are bad when it comes to flying! (Note: the bad link to the “handy calculator online” in the article is a known error)

https://www.planeandpilotmag.com/article/dont-be-dense-about-density-altitude/#.WiBoWUqnFaQ
https://www.mountainflying.com/Pages/mountain-flying/density_alt.html
https://www.faasafety.gov/files/gslac/library/documents/2011/Aug/56396/FAA%20P-8740-02%20DensityAltitude%5Bhi-res%5D%20branded.pdf

https://youtu.be/ihee35QrWtk – video showing historic mid-century FAA film discussing the important aspects of density altitude with Harry Bliss.

https://youtu.be/OVM3RRd1vf0 – video from the view of the cockpit, captures the density altitude-related crash of a general aviation aircraft.

Do further research on the topic of density altitude, as well as high-density altitude-related incidents and accidents within the aviation industry. Follow the instructions to complete the density altitude experiment file, which is intended to further your understanding of density altitude, and present your conclusions of the dependence of temperature, pressure, and humidity on density altitude. Start by sharing some additional thoughts on the concept and important aspects of density altitude, based on the readings and your experiment results. Also, if you have any aviation background, share your experiences with density altitude.

Due: Thurs 12/11

As you continue to formulate ideas about the aviation impacts and importance of density altitude, read this: https://www.forbes.com/sites/marshallshepherd/2017/06/20/the-science-of-why-its-too-hot-for-some-planes-to-fly-in-the-southwest-u-s/?sh=246199ce54ce covering a recent density altitude-related event.

You will begin a rough draft of your training document. The document should be a summary of the answers to the following questions, which address the important aspects of density altitude:

  1. What is a practical definition density altitude – one that would clearly explain the concept to a general aviation pilot-in-training?
  2. What are the main factors that affect density altitude, and what changes in each of those factors cause the density altitude to increase?
  3. What are the hazardous effects of a high-density altitude on aircraft performance?
  4. Is density altitude only an issue at high elevation airports? Explain.
  5. What season of the year is density altitude generally highest, and what time(s) of day during this season are high-density altitude conditions most critical? Explain.
  6. What should be the precautions taken, and preparations made, when planning a flight in high-density altitude conditions?
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