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QNH, QFE, QNE What does it all mean, explanation.

admin (Simon W)

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A couple of people have asked recently about QNH, QFE Altimeter settings. Please find below a simple (ish) guide to the altimeter settings available to most modern gadget owners. It's an easy one to forget but one of the ones to remember so it here. 

QNH Query: Nautical Height = The pressure measured at mean sea level. When set on your altimeter it will read your altitude. Sat on your field the altimeter will display the fields elevation above mean sea level. This is the most used setting in the flying world. It's the most useful setting to have, as nearly all references to elevation are in relation to mean sea level. The hills or mountains on an air chart, field elevation, minimum safe altitudes on your XC etc.

Different regions have different weather and there fore different pressure settings. If your doing an epic XC, to stay accurate, you will need to adjust your settings as you cover different regions. 


QFE Query: Field Elevation = Is mean sea level pressure corrected for temperature, adjusted for a specific airfield. When this is set on your altimeter, It will read zero at the field  and after take off will read your height above 'that' field. If you fly to another field of different elevation or different pressure the reading will be inaccurate. QFE is very good for new pilots who are returning to the same field after a short XC.


QNE = The International Standard Atmosphere. This one is the average mean sea level pressure around the globe. It is earths mean atmospheric pressure at sea level. in a nut shell, unless you are flying an intercontinental jet you need not worry about this one :-) 

Every day's a school day :-):-) hope you learned something and please do share. If anyone want's to add anything... please do :-)


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There are a couple of minor things to add to the article, but only one is important... in the bulk of the UK transition Altitude is 3000’ so if going above this altitude (which I believe many do) then the altimeter should be set to 1013 (QNE) for the time spent above. On descending down below then you return to QNH. The less important thing is the terms Query Nautical Height and Query Field Elevation are actually an old housewives tale. They are just two of a large number of historic 3 letter Q codes (worth a google search) that are not actually acronyms however many find it useful to use those terms to remember which is which.

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