What is VREF in Aviation? (Reference Touchdown Speed)

In the world of aviation, pilots and aviation enthusiasts often come across a multitude of technical terms and acronyms. One such term is the reference touchdown speed, commonly known as Vref. Understanding the concept of Vref is crucial for pilots as it plays a vital role in ensuring safe landings and efficient aircraft performance. In this article, we will explore what reference touchdown speed is, its significance, and how it is calculated.

Understanding Reference Touchdown Speed (Vref)

Reference touchdown speed, denoted as Vref, is the calibrated airspeed at which an aircraft touches down on the runway during a landing. It represents the ideal speed at which the aircraft should make contact with the runway, taking into account various factors such as aircraft weight, configuration, and atmospheric conditions. Vref serves as a critical reference for pilots to ensure a safe and controlled landing.

Vref is calculated based on the aircraft’s approach speed, also known as Vapp, which is the calibrated airspeed at the threshold of the runway during the final approach phase. The threshold refers to the beginning of the runway where the aircraft aims to touch down. The approach speed is determined by considering factors such as aircraft weight, configuration, wind conditions, and any presence of gusts.

In order to calculate Vref, a safety margin known as the “flap factor” or “added speed” is added to the approach speed. The flap factor accounts for any potential gusts, uncertainties, and variations in aircraft performance. The amount of added speed depends on the specific aircraft and its characteristics. Generally, larger aircraft have higher flap factors than smaller ones.

It’s important to note that Vref may vary depending on the specific phase of flight. For example, Vref during approach may differ from Vref during short-field landings or go-arounds. The variations are primarily due to different aircraft configurations and operating conditions. Pilots must be aware of the specific Vref values applicable to different phases of flight to ensure safe and optimal performance.

Calculating Reference Touchdown Speed (Vref)

Calculating Vref requires a comprehensive understanding of the aircraft’s characteristics and performance factors. Several factors and variables are taken into consideration, including:

  • Aircraft weight: A heavier aircraft will have a higher Vref, while a lighter aircraft will have a lower Vref.
  • Atmospheric conditions: Factors such as temperature, altitude, and wind directly impact the aircraft’s performance and therefore influence Vref.
  • Configuration: The configuration of the aircraft, including flaps and landing gear, affects Vref. Higher flap settings generally result in higher Vref values.
  • Runway conditions: The length, slope, and surface condition of the runway also play a role in determining Vref.

To calculate Vref, pilots typically refer to the aircraft’s performance charts and tables provided by the manufacturer. These charts take into account the various factors mentioned above and provide specific values for different configurations and operating conditions. Additionally, pilots can use electronic flight bag (EFB) applications or flight management systems (FMS) that automatically calculate Vref based on inputs provided by the pilot.

It’s important for pilots to ensure that they have accurate and up-to-date performance data to calculate Vref accurately. The use of outdated charts or incorrect inputs could lead to incorrect calculations and compromised safety during landing.

Significance of Reference Touchdown Speed (Vref)

Vref plays a crucial role in ensuring safe landings and optimal aircraft performance. Maintaining the appropriate reference touchdown speed allows pilots to:

  • Ensure a smooth touchdown: By landing the aircraft at Vref, pilots can minimize the risk of hard landings or bouncing on the runway, providing a comfortable experience for passengers and reducing stress on the airframe.
  • Account for potential gusts: The added speed or flap factor in Vref accounts for potential gusty conditions during landing. This ensures that the aircraft maintains sufficient control and stability even in adverse weather conditions.
  • Optimize braking and stopping distance: Landing at Vref allows pilots to accurately predict and control the aircraft’s performance during the rollout phase, optimizing the use of brakes and reducing the required stopping distance.
  • Prevent overrun incidents: Landing at the appropriate speed ensures that the aircraft isn’t touching down too fast, reducing the risk of runway overrun incidents.

When pilots adhere to Vref, they are able to achieve a safe and controlled landing, ensuring the well-being of passengers and the integrity of the aircraft.


Reference touchdown speed, or Vref, is a critical factor in aviation that pilots need to understand and apply during landings. It represents the calibrated airspeed at which the aircraft makes contact with the runway, incorporating various factors such as aircraft weight, configuration, and atmospheric conditions. Calculating Vref requires a careful consideration of these factors, with the help of aircraft performance charts or electronic flight bag applications. By maintaining the appropriate Vref, pilots ensure safe landings, optimal aircraft performance, and passenger comfort. It is an essential component of a pilot’s knowledge and capability in the world of aviation.

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For More: What is FIR in Aviation? (Flight Information Region)