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Pitot-Static Systems

Introduction:

Pitot Tube
Static Port
Figure 1: Pitot Tube
Figure 2: Static Port

Pitot Tube:


Pitot Heat:


Static port:

  • Samples ambient still air atmospheric pressure
  • Normally flush mounted on the side of the aircraft where air is undisturbed
  • Senses movement of the aircraft through air both horizontally and vertically
  • Placed in one more more places where the air is not disturbed
  • Some ports are heated
  • Dual ports remove errors due to slips and skids
  • Responsible for Airspeed Indicator, Altimeter and Vertical Speed Indicators
  • The POH/AFM contains any corrections that must be applied to the airspeed for the various configurations of flaps and landing gear

Instrument Flying Handbook. Figure 3-1, A Typical Electrically Heated Pitot-Static Tube
Figure 1: Instrument Flying Handbook, A Typical Electrically Heated Pitot-Static Head

Pitot-Static System Failure:

  • Blockages in the system can cause a variety of errors
  • To prevent these errors you must complete a thorough pre-flight
  • Blockages can occur from FOD, striking an object, insects, and icing
  • Consult the Pilot's Operating Handbook/Airplane Flight Manual (POH/AFM) to determine the amount of error

  • Pitot tube becomes blocked (static open):
    • At the altitude where the Pitot tube becomes blocked, the airspeed indicator remains at the existing airspeed and doesn't reflect actual changes in speed
      • At altitudes above where the Pitot tube became blocked, the ASI displays a higher-than-actual airspeed increasing steadily as altitude increases
      • At lower altitudes, the ASI displays a lower-than-actual airspeed decreasing steadily as altitude decreases
  • Drain hole in Pitot tube becomes blocked:
    • Would cause ASI to malfunction
  • Pitot tube and drain hole become blocked:
    • Would cause ASI to malfunction
  • Static port becomes blocked:
    • Would cause ASI, altimeter, and VSI to malfunction
    • If in a real emergency, malfunctions can be corrected with alternate air or breaking the glass on a Pitot static instrument (VSI)
    • If the static ports become blocked, the ASI would still function but could produce inaccurate indications
    • At the altitude where the blockage occurs, airspeed indications would be normal
      • At altitudes above which the static ports became blocked, the ASI displays a lower-than-actual airspeed continually decreasing as altitude is increased
      • At lower altitudes, the ASI displays a higher-than-actual airspeed increasing steadily as altitude decreases
    • The trapped pressure in the static system causes the altimeter to remain at the altitude where the blockage occurred
    • The VSI remains at zero
    • On some aircraft, an alternate static air source valve is used for emergencies
    • If the alternate source is vented inside the airplane, where static pressure is usually lower than outside static pressure, selection of the alternate source may result in the following erroneous instrument indications:
      1. Altimeter reads higher than normal
      2. Indicated airspeed (IAS) reads greater than normal
      3. VSI momentarily shows a climb

References: