Aeronautical Terms beginning with D

Datum (Reference Datum)

An imaginary vertical plane or line from which all measurements of moment arm are taken. The datum is established by the manufacturer. Once the datum has been selected, all moment arms the location of CG range are measured from this point.

Decompression Sickness

A condition where the low pressure at high altitudes allows bubbles of nitrogen to form in the blood and joints causing severe pain. Also known as the bends.

Deicer Boots

Inflatable rubber boots attached to the leading edge of an airfoil. They can be sequentially inflated and deflated to break away ice that has formed over their surface.


Removing ice after it has formed.


The separation of layers.

Density Altitude

This altitude is pressure altitude corrected for variations from standard temperature. When conditions are standard, pressure altitude and density altitude are the same. If the temperature is above standard, the density altitude is higher than pressure altitude. If the temperature is below standard, the density altitude is lower than pressure altitude. This is an important altitude because it is directly related to the airplane’s performance.

Designated Pilot Examiner (DPE)

An individual designated by the FAA to administer practical tests to pilot applicants.


The sudden release of heat energy from fuel in an aircraft engine caused by the fuel-air mixture reaching its critical pressure and temperature. Detonation occurs as a violent explosion rather than a smooth burning process.


The temperature at which air can hold no more water.

Differential Ailerons

Control surface rigged such that the aileron moving up moves a greater distance than the aileron moving down. The up aileron produces extra parasite drag to compensate for the additional induced drag caused by the down aileron. This balancing of the drag forces helps minimize adverse yaw.


Reducing the velocity of air causing the pressure to increase.

Directional Stability

Stability about the vertical axis of an aircraft, whereby an aircraft tends to return, on its own, to flight aligned with the relative wind when disturbed from that equilibrium state. The vertical tail is the primary contributor to directional stability, causing an airplane in flight to align with the relative wind.


Emergency landing in water.


Air deflected perpendicular to the motion of the airfoil.


An aerodynamic force on a body acting parallel and opposite to the relative wind. The resistance of the atmosphere to the relative motion of an aircraft. Drag opposes thrust and limits the speed of the airplane.

Drag Curve

A visual representation of the amount of drag of an aircraft at various airspeeds.

Drift Angle

Angle between heading and track.

Ducted-Fan Engine

An engine-propeller combination that has the propeller enclosed in a radial shroud. Enclosing the propeller improves the efficiency of the propeller.

Dutch Roll

A combination of rolling and yawing oscillations that normally occurs when the dihedral effects of an aircraft are more powerful than the directional stability. Usually dynamically stable but objectionable in an airplane because of the oscillatory nature.

Dynamic Hydroplaning

A condition that exists when landing on a surface with standing water deeper than the tread depth of the tires. When the brakes are applied, there is a possibility that the brake will lock up and the tire will ride on the surface of the water, much like a water ski. When the tires are hydroplaning, directional control and braking action are virtually impossible. An effective anti-skid system can minimize the effects of hydroplaning.

Dynamic Stability

The property of an aircraft that causes it, when disturbed from straight-and level flight, to develop forces or moments that restore the original condition of straight and level.

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