Flight altitude is one of the most important aviation parameters. The speed and fuel consumption depend on it, in particular. Sometimes flight safety also depends on the choice of altitude. So, for example, pilots have to change altitude when the weather conditions change abruptly, due to dense fog, dense clouds, extensive thunderstorm front or turbulent zone.
What should be the flight altitude
Unlike the speed of an airplane (the faster the better), the flight altitude must be optimal. Moreover, each type of aircraft has its own. It would never occur to anyone to compare the heights at which, for example, sports, passenger or multipurpose combat aircraft fly. And yet there are record holders here too.
The first flight altitude record was equal to ... three meters. It was to this height that the Wright Flyer aircraft of the brothers Wilbur and Orville Wright first flew on December 17, 1903. 74 years later, on August 31, 1977, Soviet test pilot Alexander Fedotov set a world altitude record of 37650 meters on a MiG-25 fighter. Until now, it remains the maximum flight altitude of the fighter.
At what altitude do passenger aircraft fly
Civil aircraft are by right the largest group of modern aviation. As of 2015, there were 21.6 thousand multi-seat aircraft in the world, of which a third - 7.4 thousand - are large wide-body passenger airliners.
When determining the optimal flight altitude (level), the controller or the crew commander is guided by the following. As you know, the higher the altitude, the more discharged the air and the easier it is for the plane to fly - therefore it makes sense to go higher. However, the wings of an airplane need support, and at an extremely high altitude (for example, in the stratosphere), it is clearly not enough, and the car will start to "collapse" and the engines will stall.
The conclusion suggests itself: the commander (and today the on-board computer) chooses the "golden mean" - the ideal ratio of friction force and lift force. As a result, each type of passenger airliners (taking into account weather conditions, technical characteristics, flight duration and direction) has its own optimal height.
Why do planes fly at 10, 000 meters?
In general, the flight altitude of civil aircraft varies from 10 to 12 thousand meters when flying to the west and from 9 to 11 thousand meters to the east. 12 thousand meters is the maximum height for passenger aircraft, above which the engines begin to "choke" from lack of oxygen. Because of this, an altitude of 10, 000 meters is considered the most optimal.
At what altitude do fighters fly
The altitude criteria of fighters are somewhat different, which is explained by their purpose: depending on the task at hand, combat operations have to be conducted at different altitudes. The technical equipment of modern fighters allows them to operate in the range from several tens of meters to tens of kilometers.
However, the exorbitant heights of fighters are now "not in vogue." And there is an explanation for this. Modern air defense systems and air-to-air fighter missiles are capable of destroying targets at any altitude. Therefore, the main problem for a fighter is to detect and destroy the enemy earlier, and go unnoticed himself. The optimal flight altitude of the 5th generation fighter (service ceiling) is 20, 000 meters.