Velocity Measurement By Pitot Static Tube in Subsonic And Supersonic Regime

(Last Updated On: November 24, 2016)

Velocity measurement by pitot static tube in supersonic regime

Do you know how the velocity of aircraft  is measured in fluid by Pitot-Static Tube? On road vehicles like bus, motor bikes, car we have a mechanism of magnetic coils which measure the velocity of vehicle by the number of rotations of the wheels.

Aircraft, have no road from speed-o-meter mechanism measure velocity. In this case fluid pressure is used for measuring the velocity of body in a fluid. In less words, Pitot-Static tube installed on the aircraft body for measurement of velocity of the aircraft.

Related: Complete Wind Tunnel Technique Notes for PTU & PEC Aero Students


Pitot Static Tube is the air flow measurement instrument which is used for measurement of fluid flow velocity. Pitot-static tube is the combination of Pitot tube and Prandtl tube. Pitot tube which consists of total hole (as shown below in image) and Prandtl tube consist of static holes on the periphery of the tube.

velocity measurement by pitot static tube

The Pitot static tube is the combination of Pitot tube and Prandtl tube design. This design is more working in high Reynolds number fluid flow and at various altitudes and angles of attack. Static holes required to take the static pressure of local atmosphere for measuring the accurate velocity of a body (aircraft, ship, rocket sled).

Stagnation Pressure= Static Pressure + Dynamic Pressure



Following are the subsonic to supersonic flow regime information :-


For velocity of free stream up to Mach 0.3 (103 m/s), flow is incompressible here we use the Bernoulli’s equation for velocity measurement which describe the relationship between the velocity and pressure in streamlining.



For velocity more than 0.3 Mach, flow is considered compressible and density of flow changes point to point. When flow strikes the Pitot static tube nose air gets compressed.If we assume the flow is compressed and decelerated from free stream state isentropically.


For flow more than Mach 1 a new phenomenon of shock waves formed in the upstream of the nose of Pitot- static tube which decelerated non isentropically flow to subsonic after shock waves and brings zero velocity isentropically near the stagnation point. As shown below

compressible flow velocity measurement by pitot static tube

Rayleigh Formula for supersonic velocity measurement


Flow velocity is an implicit function of Pitot tube pressure. Rayleigh formula is use for the velocity measurement in supersonic regime i.e.


  • P02 =Pressure of free stream at stagnation point.
  • P1 =Pressure of free stream in front of shock waves(static pressure)
  • M1= Free stream Mach number before shock waves
  • M2= Free stream Mach number after the shock waves
  • x= (Gamma ) Ratio of specific heat at constant pressure to specific heat at constant volume


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