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V speeds refer to just about any airspeed that’s used by pilots and all types of aircraft. This is the complete guide to explaining V speeds in aviation.

If you’re thinking about becoming a pilot, then you have probably started looking into some of the things that pilots need to know. One of the common pieces of aviation knowledge that you’ll eventually come to know all about is V speeds. Sure, planes have a top speed and a cruising speed, but there is a heck of a lot more airspeeds you should know. So what are V speeds?

There are a lot of V speeds in aviation. In short, these are the various speeds and velocities that are useful while operating aircraft. Many of them are regulated and defined by the Federal Aviation Regulations, while others are specific to certain aircraft and defined by manufacturers.

When you're piloting an aircraft, it's important to be aware of the V speeds and what they mean. Each letter in "V speeds" stands for a specific airspeed that is regulated by the Federal Aviation Regulations (FARs). In this blog post, we'll provide a complete guide to understanding V speeds. We'll start with a brief introduction, and then provide a definition for each V speed.

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Table of contents


What Are V Speeds?

V speeds are one of those topics that you probably wouldn’t really ever hear about unless you’re a pilot yourself. They’re a somewhat complicated topic on a micro scale, but in the bigger picture, it’s actually not to be!

So what even are V speeds?

In general, V speeds are all of the different airspeeds and velocities in aviation that are either important to know or useful to the pilot, or both. Some of these V speeds are actually defined in the Federal Aviation Regulations (FARs) here in the United States, meaning they are rules set forth by the government.

Other V speeds are instituted by aircraft manufacturers with specific aircraft in mind. We aren’t going to be focusing on those here since they aren’t useful unless you’re flying that specific aircraft!

But no matter if you’re looking at the broad, regulated ones or the aircraft-specific ones, V speeds are essential for efficient and safe operation of all airplanes. They’ll tell you things about flying the aircraft such as its maximum operating speed, minimum takeoff speed, the best speeds for angle of climb/rate of climb, and more.

List Of V Speeds And Their Definitions

Now that you have a bit of an understanding of what V speeds are on a macro scale, let’s take a closer look at the most common ones (the regulated ones). Without further ado, here are all of the regulated V speeds defined.

V1  — The takeoff decision speed. Before hitting this speed, you must make a decision to either continue or abort the takeoff. At this speed, it takes the same distance for the aircraft to either stop or take off.

V2  — Takeoff safety speed. This is the speed that the aircraft can take off and climb even if an engine is not working.

V2min  — This is the minimum takeoff safety speed. In many cases, it is interchangeable with V2.

V3  — This is the flap retraction speed. This is the minimum speed needed to safely retract the flaps after taking off.

V4  — This is the climb speed after takeoff when all engines are operating properly. It should be attained by 400-feet altitude and used until reaching V3.

VA  — The design maneuvering speed. This is the maximum speed that a plane can withstand the full application of any flight control (turn, pull up, dive, etc.).

Vat — Also known as Vth, this is the indicated airspeed threshold, which is influenced by the aircraft’s stall speed.

VB  — The speed at which the aircraft is designed to withstand maximum wind gust intensity.

VC  — This is the designed cruising speed of the aircraft, which shows that the plane complies with wind loads while cruising.

Vcef  — Often interchangeable with V1 from above, this nomenclature is typically used for military aircraft but references the same takeoff decision speed.

VD  — This is the design diving speed, which is the highest speed that the plane is designed to achieve during testing.

VDF  — Similar to VD, except this is the demonstrated diving speed, which is the actual speed that the plane reached during testing.

VEF  — This is the speed at which it’s expected that the critical engine will fail during takeoff.

VF  — Design flap speed. This is the maximum speed that the plane’s flaps are designed to be operated at.

VFC — This is the maximum speed before undesirable flight characteristics take over and get to a point that the pilot might not be able to correct.

VFE  — The maximum flap extended speed. This is the speed at which you can extend your flaps without risking a stall. In a perfect world, this would equal VF.

VFTO  — This is the final takeoff speed, or the speed at takeoff necessary for the plane to climb and maneuver as designed.

VH  — This is the maximum speed that an aircraft can fly during level flying conditions under maximum power.

VLE  — Maximum landing gear speed, which is the fastest that a plane should fly with its retractable landing gear extended.

VLO  — This is very similar to VLE, but this is the fastest that a plane should be flying at the point that the landing gear is extended.

VLOF  — The liftoff speed. This is the speed that an aircraft is moving when it first becomes airborne while taking off.

VMC  — The minimum speed at which an aircraft can be safely controlled in the event of a single engine failure.

VMCA — The minimum control speed with the critical engine inoperative. This is the speed at which an aircraft can safely maintain directional control. If the aircraft is flying, this is just referred to as the above-defined VMC.

VMCG  — The minimum control speed in ground effect. This is the speed at which an aircraft can maintain directional control while on the ground.

VMCL  — This is the minimum speed that an aircraft can maintain control while landing in the event of an engine failure.

VMO  — Maximum operating speed. This is the absolute maximum speed that an aircraft is designed to operate at. Exceeding this speed could start setting off alarms.

VMU  — This is the slowest speed that an aircraft can become airborne, known as the minimum unstick speed.

VNE  — Never exceed speed. This is the maximum speed an aircraft can fly without risking structural damage. This is similar to VMO above, it really depends on the type of aircraft in question.

VNO  — The maximum structural cruising speed. This is the fastest speed an aircraft can fly without risking damage to the airframe.

VO  — This is the maximum operating speed during maneuvers. In other words, this is the fastest that a plane can fly while still being able to maneuver as designed.

VR — The rotation speed. This is the speed at which an aircraft can rotate on the runway (upwards and downwards) and begin to take off.

Vrot  — This is often interchangeable with VR just above, but this notation is typically used when referencing military aircraft like fighter jets.

VRef  — For most aircraft, this is the landing reference speed. In terms of military aircraft, it’s known as the refusal speed (Vref), which is the maximum speed that a pilot can attain during takeoff and still be able to stop in the available runway that’s left. This is similar to V1.

VS  — The stall speed. This is the speed at which an aircraft will begin to experience a stall. Before crossing this threshold you’ll hit the minimum speed at which an aircraft is still able to be controlled.

VS0  — Similar to VS, except that this is the stall speed while coming in for landing.

VS1  — This is also similar to VS, except it’s the specific stall speed indicating that a plane is still controllable in any specific situation.

VSR  — Another stall speed, but this is just the reference stall speed.

VSR0  — As you can ascertain from the last few definitions, this is the reference stall speed while coming in for landing.

VSR1 — Similarly, this is the reference stall speed while in any specific configuration (other than landing).

VSW  — Stall warning speed. This is the minimum speed at which the stall warning will occur. Oftentimes, VSW is equal to VS.

VTOSS  — This is the takeoff safety speed specifically for Category A rotorcraft.

VX — This is one of the most important V speeds (along with VY below). It's the speed at which you can achieve the best angle of climb. This means that it’s the ideal speed to attain the biggest gain in altitude in the shortest amount of horizontal distance.

VY  — As mentioned, this one of the other most important V speeds — the best rate of climb speed. This means that it’s the ideal speed to attain the biggest gain in altitude in the shortest amount of time.

For a more comprehensive look into VX and VY, check out the full comparison we have between the two on the site. These are two of the most useful V speeds while flying, so it’s important to really understand what they represent and know which is which, like the back of your hand!