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Relative velocity between tangible object, such as raindrop or aircraft, and surrounding air. In most aircraft measured by pitot-static system connected to airspeed indicator (ASI) to give airspeed indicator reading (ASIR).

When corrected for instrument error (IE), result is indicated airspeed (IAS). When corrected for position error (PE), result is rectified airspeed (RAS). Most ASIs calibrated according to ideal incompressible flow (½ρV²), so from RAS subtract compressibility correction to give equivalent airspeed (EAS). Finally density correction, proportional to difference between ambient air density and calibration density (1,225 gm–3), applied to give true airspeed (TAS).

This sequence ignores errors, usually transient, due to major changes in angle of attack (eg, in manoeuvres). Some ASIs calibrated to allow for compressibility according to ISA SL, indicating calibrated airspeed (CAS). Confusion caused by fact most authorities now use ‘calibrated airspeed’ to mean ASIR corrected for IE and PE; CAS thus defined would have to be corrected for density and compressibility. Thus since 1980 CAS must be regarded as ASIR + IE + PE; if allowing for compressibility then at ISA/SL CAS = TAS.

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