Why Planes Are Flying At A Higher Altitude Than Usual

by SharonKurheg

If you have the Flightradar24 app, or look at it online, or if you have any other flight tracking app, you may have noticed that a lot of planes are flying at higher altitudes than the typical 35(ish) thousand feet nowadays. Or if you’ve been on a plane, you may have heard your captain say that you’re cruising at 38,000 or even 40,000 feet (well, unless you’re using these, and then maybe not so much).

If you’re a regular reader of YMMV, you may remember that I posted an article a while back that explained why planes tend to fly at around 35,000 feet. However, when I wrote that back in 2019, no one was taking the 2019 Novel Coronavirus into account.

Besides so many flights being canceled, many are not 100% full. That means they’re lighter, which, in turn, means they can fly at higher altitudes. The higher the altitude you fly, the more fuel-efficient you are, because the air is thinner and gives less resistance.

There’s also less air traffic at 41,000 feet than there is at 35,000 feet, which is another reason that flying at a higher altitude is more desirable.

Of course, pilots can’t go as high as they’d like. They have to do what Air Traffic Control tells them to do. On top of that, each plane has a maximum service ceiling that it can reach according to its design. Most passenger planes have a maximum service ceiling of about 39,000 to 40,000 feet, although some can go to 41,000 feet.

Small business jets, such as that Cessna 560XL above (far right example, at 43,000 feet), can go higher than commercial planes because they’re lighter (less people and “stuff” inside) but still have comparatively larger engines. Cessna 560XLs can go up to 45,000 feet.

For the sake of the airlines, I hope more people will be comfortable with flying more sooner than later. Until then, hey, at last they can be more fuel-efficient.

#stayhealthy #staysafe #washyourhands #wearamask

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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary


swoopest December 5, 2020 - 2:52 pm

The supersonic Concord flew at 57,000 ft.

SharonKurheg December 5, 2020 - 3:44 pm

Indeed. But it’s not flying any higher nowadays 😉


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