Va, Beyond Rote Memory
There are a lot of Va definitions out there, including the textbook one that is delivered by rote when a student is asked what Va (Maneuvering Speed) is. Unfortunately, most of them do not relate to the true understanding of this “life saving” speed. The best definition, albeit also the shortest, is – turbulence penetration speed – the speed you should get to as soon as possible when significant turbulence is encountered. But is it?
To understand, you need to look at a Vg Diagram (most good pilot texts will have one) – that’s the diagram that you most likely last saw in your private pilot materials with the stall lines, the limit load and ultimate limit load lines and VNE as the “envelope” of the aircraft – and most of us have never seen an actual one for our aircraft! Va occurs at the point where the positive limit load line intersects the stall line on the positive “g” portion (upper) of the diagram, and we are told that if we are at that speed, the airplane stalls before it exceed the limit and thus gets no damage.