No discussion of climbs and descents would be complete without touching on the question of what controls altitude and what controls airspeed. The pilot must understand the effects of both power and elevator control, working together, during different conditions of flight. The closest one can come to a formula for determining airspeed/altitude control that is valid under all circumstances is a basic principle of attitude flying which states:
“At any pitch attitude, the amount of power used will determine whether the airplane will climb, descend, or remain level at that attitude.”
Through a wide range of nose-low attitudes, a descent is the only possible condition of flight. The addition of power at these attitudes will only result in a greater rate of descent at a faster airspeed.
Through a range of attitudes from very slightly nose-low to about 30° nose-up, a typical light airplane can be made to climb, descend, or maintain altitude depending on the power used. In about the lower third of this range, the airplane will descend at idle power without stalling. As pitch attitude is increased, however, engine power will be required to prevent a stall. Even more power will be required to maintain altitude, and even more for a climb. At a pitch attitude approaching 30° nose-up, all available power will provide only enough thrust to maintain altitude. A slight increase in the steepness of climb or a slight decrease in power will produce a descent. From that point, the least inducement will result in a stall.