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How high do planes fly?

How high do planes fly?

Not all planes are the same, so they don’t all travel at the same altitude. In order to fly, an airplane must strike a balance between four things: thrust, drag, weight, and lift. This is why each plane flies at a different ideal height, depending on its characteristics.

Weight and drag vary from one aircraft model to another, but most aircraft use combustion engines to achieve the necessary thrust to take off and stay in the air. The amount of oxygen in the air is an essential external factor for them to be able to fly; without oxygen, the engines would stop working. That’s why most powered aircraft stay at a certain altitude with the ideal atmospheric conditions for flight: less turbulence, more safety, and just the right amount of oxygen. 

That minimum altitude is 10,000 meters

Why do airplanes climb higher than 10,000 meters?

The main reasons are:

  • To avoid other planes.
  • To reduce the risk of crashing into mountains. Mount Everest, for instance, is over 8,000 meters high.
  • To not collide with birds. Some species, such as the spotted vulture and the crane, can fly over 10,000 meters high.
  • To avoid turbulence.
  • To maximize fuel efficiency, reaching cruising altitude.

What is cruising altitude?

This is the altitude at which air offers the least resistance so planes can travel faster with less fuel. Generally, cruising altitude is between ten and twelve thousand meters.

Today, civil aircraft use turbofan engines, which are more efficient, quieter, and less polluting.

What planes fly over 10,000 meters?

Business jets and military aircraft:

Some business jets can soar up to 15,000 meters, while most military aircraft can fly at this altitude or even a little higher. However, these aircraft tend to stay below 15,000 feet for safety reasons, as the air can become too thin and make it impossible to burn aviation fuel continuously.

Rocket-powered aircraft:

Some rocket-powered aircraft have flown up to 30,000 meters in altitude, as they are specially designed for this purpose. However, these ultralight aircraft are primarily used for data collection, such as interceptor aircraft and spaceplanes. 

Supersonic aircraft:

These state-of-the-art aircraft can fly through the stratosphere, which is at about 30,000 meters. In the not too distant future, commercial aircraft are expected to become supersonic and hypersonic, flying through the stratosphere and able to cover great distances in record times (for example, from Europe to America in three hours).

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