Which controls which? Throttle/elevator and airspeed/altitude
Air Facts Journal

There’s an old story about an insane asylum in which nobody ever thought up any new jokes, so all the old jokes were given numbers. This meant that telling a joke only required giving its number.

In that same spirit, here is a list of arguments as to whether pitch or power controls airspeed or altitude. Now pilots can discuss the issue more succinctly by tossing numbers around.

  1. Throttle in Cessna

    Does pitch or power control airspeed or altitude?

    Pitch controls speed, power controls altitude.

  2. Pitch controls altitude, power control speed.
  3. It’s not what controls what, it’s what is used to control what.
  4. Neither one directly affects only airspeed or altitude, they’re interrelated.
  5. How can you say which controls what without comparing throttle/wheel movement amplitudes?
  6. How can you say which controls what when the units are different?
  7. Look at the ACS standards for speed and altitude tolerances for a given maneuver and express what controls what in terms of percent of allowable deviation.
  8. Write out the fourth order linearized longitudinal dynamics and compare the coefficients.
  9. Pitch is the high frequency component of the control law, power the low frequency component.
  10. The real issue is not what controls what, but how we describe what controls what.
  11. Nothing controls altitude, you can only control altitude rate.
  12. Is the question about small changes or big changes?
  13. It depends on whether you’re tracking the glideslope or fighting up- and down-drafts in cruise.
  14. It depends upon whether power is fixed or not.
  15. Are we talking about the current FAA answer, the one before that, or the one before that?
  16. Airline pilots will tell you to just turn on the autopilot and ring the flight attendants for coffee.
  17. In comparing textbook answers, the oldest textbook is correct.
  18. Look it up in “Stick and Rudder.”
  19. Do not ask a glider pilot.
  20. Are we talking about high wing or low wing airplanes?
  21. It depends upon whether the airplane has a high or a low thrust line.
  22. The youtube channel with the most views is correct.
  23. The youtube channel with the most views is not correct.
  24. Take your CFI’s word for it, unless they are building hours for the airlines.
  25. Take your CFI’s word for it, unless they learned at a flight school with more than five locations.
  26. Navy pilots are correct, Air Force pilots are incorrect.
  27. Air Force pilots are correct, Navy pilots are incorrect.
  28. Go find a Master’s Thesis on the topic. It will be wrong.
  29. Is there another answer besides these?
  30. Who says there’s only one answer?

PS – If you are taking your Private Pilot flight test, make sure you give the correct number. Or just give all of them.

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