Why Do Commercial Airplanes Fly At High Altitudes?

It would be safe to say that most passengers have never thought about why airplanes fly at a specific height of 35000 feet.

We all assume that since its an airplane it will fly 10600 meters above in the sky, but have you ever wonder why exactly that height?

Well, we did some digging and found out there are some pretty interesting reasons why most airplanes around the world fly so high.

Why Do Airplanes Fly So High?

1.The Higher The Better

One of the central reasons behind an aircraft’s altitude is that, as the air gets thinner with every foot climbed, airplanes can travel more easily and therefore move faster and burn less fuel, saving money.

The “sweet spot” of flying is regarded as between 35,000 and 42,000 feet.

If the airplane flies above this limit the oxygen becomes too sparse to fuel the engines. If it ’s too low, the airplane will experience greater air resistance.

2.Weather Conditions

Flying thousands of feet above the ground also means airplanes avoid much of the bad weather people on the ground are subjected to.

You know the feeling when you see nothing but blue skies from your window seat, only to descend into your destination airport to a dull drizzle.

3.Avoid Heavy Traffic

We aren’t talking about our usual road traffic!

Of course, it does avoid the hectic city traffic, but what we mean is the airborne traffic such as light aircraft or helicopters, which fly lower, as well as insects and birds.

Light aircraft do not have pressurised cabins, therefore stick below 10,000 feet.

4.In The Event Of An Emergency

Should something bad happen to an aircraft at 35,000 feet, like losing power in its engines, the pilot has much longer to deal with the situation, than if the aircraft was just at 10,000 feet.

This may sound silly, but remember that planes can still land safely even if both engines fail

How Low can Airplanes Fly?

The lowest an airplane can fly is a 1000 feet, but this is not applicable to airliners.

Known as the Lowest Safe Altitude (LSALT), this value has been applied by aviation bodies around the world, including Australia’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA), the British Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and the US Federal Aviation Administration.

Airlines can fly at this low but there are safety standards and rules that don’t allow this. In fact, its illegal for any aircraft to fly lower than a 1000 feet.

Aircraft must not fly less than 1000 feet above the “highest fixed object” beneath them and pilots must make sure that they are high enough to clear the congested area below in the event of engine failure.

Obviously, this doesn’t apply to take-off and landing for an aircraft as it’s done in a controlled flight path.

Is There A Maximum Height?

There is no maximum altitude for flying, however, engines will struggle as the oxygen levels fall, and communication with the ground will become a greater challenge.

The record altitude for a jet plane is 123,520 feet, set by Alexandr Fedotov in 1997 flying a military Soviet MiG-25M.

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