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Do You Know How High Commercial Passenger Planes Can Fly? Check It Out!

Every time you take off on an airplane and reach your cruising altitude, your pilot comes on the overhead and tells you how high the plane is flying. But do you know why they tell you this?

Every airplane has a limit as to how high it can fly. These limits ensure that the aircraft you are flying in is operating at its maximum capacity. Most of the time, all aircraft are allowed to fly at heights of forty-two thousand feet. However, as a plane gets closer to an airport, the air control experts can tell the planes to adjust their altitudes.

Etihad Airways Airbus A380-861 registration A6-APH flying into London Heathrow airport after operating as flight EY19 from Abu Dhabi.
Etihad Airways Airbus A380-861 registration A6-APH flying into London Heathrow airport after operating as flight EY19 from Abu Dhabi.

Here are a few height limits for specific airplanes:

  • Airbus A380: 43,000 feet
  • Boeing 787-8 and 9: 43,100 feet
  • Boeing 787-10: 41,000 feet
  • Boeing 737 (up to the 500): 37,000 feet
  • Boeing 737 (600 and newer): 41,000 feet

Most aircraft will only fly around 35,000 feet, as they feel that that is a safe height. However, if you ever have the chance to fly on the Concorde, you will find that you are flying much higher at a maximum height of 60,000 feet. The Concorde can handle these heights, due to their engines and other intricate features.

The air is thinner at higher altitudes, so flying is more efficient the higher the airplane is in the sky. There is less resistance, so the plane can fly faster without using more fuel. All jet engines operate better at higher altitudes too. The reason for this is that these jet engines can be run closer to their maximum capabilities.

The height that an airplane is flown at is dependent on the current wind conditions. Most aircraft will want to take advantage of the Jetstream winds on occasion, while other times, it is something to be avoided.

An A380 jumbo jet landing from a flight from Paris.
An A380 jumbo jet landing from a flight from Paris.

There is a point where the air is too thin and that is why these ceiling heights are in place for each individual aircraft. When the air is too thin, the engines cannot create enough thrust and the wings don’t have sufficient lift. Also, if an engine fails, it can be quite difficult to start it again in too high of an altitude.

There are a few safety concerns when you are flying at too high of an altitude as well. When the cabin pressure is off, it will take more time to stabilize it in lower altitudes if the plane is higher than it should be. When the cabin loses pressure, a person can only remain conscious for between fifteen and thirty seconds at 35,000 feet. When an airplane is at heights of 50,000 feet, the timeframe drops to only five seconds.

A Boeing 787 taking off.
A Boeing 787 taking off.

Private jets have a little more leeway in the sky, and you may find that you are riding on corporate jets that can safely ride at heights of 51,000 feet. These jets usually have larger engines and that is why they can successfully ride at these heights.

Now that you know how high commercial passenger airplanes can fly, you will understand why the pilot is telling you the plane’s altitude during your next flight. While it won’t change much of your experience, at least you can compare each one of your flights to the others and see how the altitude changes can result in a smoother or more turbulent flight.

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By Journey Connected

Our Journey Connected Travel Bloggers are here to connect our readers with the best travel advice, tips, trends, etc., for top travel experiences across the globe. Connect with us and let us know what you want to read about next!

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