How Long Can Planes Stay In The Air?

Planes fly because of the air pressure around them. This causes the plane to rise into the air.

How Long Can Planes Stay in The Air?

The air pressure pushes down on the top of the plane, but it also pushes up on the bottom of the plane.

As long as the air pressure is equal on both sides of the plane, the plane stays in the air. 

Amazingly, scientists don’t know why planes fly. There is no single explanation for how airplanes fly.

Some people even think that God helps planes fly (see also “How To Fly An RC Plane“), but the real reason will be down to science. Most believe that science will eventually figure out how planes fly. 

To understand this, we need to study lift. Lift is defined by Newton’s laws of motion. A body in free fall experiences an upward force due to gravity.

This force is proportional to the mass of the object and inversely proportional to the distance from the center of Earth.

Lift is caused by air pressure pushing down on the wings. When the wing rotates upwards, the air pushes up on the top side of the wing causing it to rise.

So, lift is caused by air pressure pushing down on an object. This causes the object to rise up and off the ground.

Can An Airplane Stay Up In The Air Without Moving Forward Just Like A Helicopter?

Aircraft need to move forward to stay airborne. If the aircraft stops flying forward, it won’t be able to fly anymore. If this occurs, it will begin to free fall to the ground. 

Who Is The Record Holder For The Longest Flight Without Refueling?

The Rutan Voyager flew nonstop around the world twice without stopping to refuel. This plane was about 10 meters long and 3 meters tall.

It had a wingspan of about 34 meters and weighed about 9 tons.

It took off from California and landed in Australia after traveling more than 27,000 kilometers (16,400 miles). Yes…wow! 

As for commercial airplanes, these can typically fly longer than military ones. A commercial airplane can carry more passengers than a military one too. 

The Longest Non-Stop Commercial Flights

Singapore Airlines Flight SQ23, which runs from New York JFK to Singapore Changi and takes just under 19 hours, is currently the world’s longest flight that travels non-stop.

An Airbus A350-900ULR aircraft is used for this voyage.

Can A Plane Fly If All Its Engines Have Failed?

Passenger planes can glide for long distances without any power. Even if the engines fail, the plane will still be able to fly for about 60 miles.

It will descend slowly until it reaches the ground.

How Planes Keep Flying With No Engines

Aircraft need to be flown by pilots who know how to use them. Pilots are trained for emergencies, including engine failure.

When an engine fails, the plane needs to lose altitude to maintain air speed. This causes the plane to descend.

If the pilot doesn’t know how to handle this situation, the plane will crash. But, aircraft can fly even without any engine power.

However, if both engines fail, it can cause a catastrophe.

How Far Can A Passenger Jet Glide If All Its Engines Have Failed?

As we mentioned above, passenger jets could fly for more than 60 miles if they lost all engines. These planes could still land safely if there was enough fuel left.

For instance, the lift-to-drag ratio of a typical commercial airplane is roughly 10:1. This means it loses 1 mile of altitude for every 10 miles it travels forward.

Where To Land If The Engine Fails?

In the case of an emergency, the captain will immediately ask the copilot for a damage assessment. He will look at their instruments to check if everything is working.

If something is not working as it should, the pilot’s safety training comes into force. In some emergencies, the pilot will look for the best place for the plane to land. 

Believe it or not, bird strikes are the main cause of engine failure.

Where To Land If The Engine Fails?

If severe damage is caused and there is engine failure, a Mayday call will be sent out over the radio and a request to land right away and have emergency services available is made.

Once this is completed, the pilot will tell the cabin crew about a “no time available” emergency.

He will also ask the first officer to turn the electrical power back on if it has gone off and start the glide slope towards the airport.

The Plane Needs To Land At A Low Speed

Landing gears are deployed early to increase drag. A glideslope is used to guide the plane during landing.

Gliding Every Flight

Most planes use engines that produce maximum thrust when the plane is flying at high altitudes. At low altitudes, these engines consume more fuel than necessary.

Pilots reduce the amount of fuel used by reducing the engine’s output.

This reduces the amount of thrust produced, but allows the plane to glide longer before landing.

Glide Ratio

All planes are different when it comes to gliding rates. Some planes have higher lift to drag ratios than others.

So, if a pilot wants their plane to glide for longer distances, they will need to make sure that they have a high lift to drag ratio.

And, if they are going to increase their altitude, they should be prepared to run out of gas. 

Bear in mind, all airplane captains and pilots are well trained with many flying hours under their belts. If there is an emergency, they will know exactly what to do.

Take the Hudson River plane crash in 2009. After hitting a flock of geese, the pilots had to make a crash landing into the Hudson River.

Thankfully, Pilot Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger took evasive action and managed to land safely on the river.

This is proof to passengers that even if both engines fail, the plane can still land safely. It just may not be on land.

Final Thoughts

As technology within the aviation industry has advanced, planes have the ability to stay in the air far longer than they used to be able to.

However, how far this can progress ultimately depends on the strain that can be exerted on pilots to be able to stay in the air for extended periods of time. 

Jacob Stern
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