Calm Air

Paul Hamilton is one of the first persons to become a DPE (Designated Pilot Examiner) for sport pilots. As a full-time author and sport pilot expert, he writes books and produces DVD's for Aviation Supplies and Academics (ASA). Now Paul has graciously agreed to answer your questions here. Thanks Paul! For more information about Paul, please visit and

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Calm Air

Postby FrankR » Sun Feb 26, 2012 2:02 pm

Mr. Hamilton,

I've read here that you advise that a SP must be able to fly to the "PTS Standards in calm air."

I can't find this in the PTS.

I can find: "The tolerances represent the performance expected in good flying conditions," from pg 13 of the PTS (FAA-S-8081-29
U.S. Department with Changes 1 and 2), The Introduction - Initial Check - Sport Pilot - Unsatisfactory Performance.

Is this the reference to are referring to?

Where does it say that "good flying conditions" equal "calm air?" Is "calm air" referenced somewhere else?

Last edited by FrankR on Mon Dec 10, 2012 7:58 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Paul Hamilton
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Postby Paul Hamilton » Tue Mar 06, 2012 8:03 pm

This is a good question Frank and unfortunately there is no specific reference for calm air only “good flying conditions” as you mention and found in the PTS. Of course “good flying conditions” can mean many different things to many different people. Trying to get a specific definition/reference for “good flying conditions” will be a challenge. As with these “gray areas” everyone can give their opinion.

I generally try to provide guidance to people getting ready for the checkride, that at a MINIMUM, you should be able to fly to the tolerances in the PTS in calm air. Preferably, you would want to fly to the PTS tolerances “in good flying conditions” which is somewhere between calm conditions and bad flying conditions, whatever “bad flying conditions” would mean to students and flight instructors.

You will find that many flight instructors may define “calm air” as light and variable and others may define this as good flying conditions. I generally define “calm air” as less than 4 knots horizontal and +/- 100 FPM variation vertical. Every pilot/instructor will have a different opinion as to what is calm and what is “good flying conditions” and what is “bad flying conditions” for each aircraft, pilot and situation.

Your instructor should be able to provide guidance as to calm, good and bad air for your pilot capabilities and aircraft limitations.
Paul is a Sport Pilot CFI/DPE and the expert for ASA who writes the books and produces the DVD's for all pilots flying light sport aircraft.
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Jim Stewart
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Postby Jim Stewart » Wed Mar 07, 2012 12:07 am

I took my private pilot checkride in a light sport airplane and I was prepared for 15 knots of wind down the runway and at least a 5 knot crosswind. If I can do it, you can do it. Be sure to know how to position the controls while taxiing and taking off.

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