How High Do Planes Fly?
What is the typical cruise altitude of a passenger jet?
How High do Passenger Planes Fly?
Most commercial passenger jets typically cruise at an altitude of 30,000 to 42,000 feet. This is between 5 to 7 miles up in the sky or 8 to 11 kilometres (8,000 to 11,000 meters). Aircraft cruise at this high altitude due to enhanced fuel efficiency when compared to lower levels.
Flight Levels for Aircraft
In most countries around the world, when at high altitude, the aircraft’s height is reported as a ‘Flight Level’ in feet. The reported flight level is the current altitude of the aircraft but with two of the zeros removed for the end. For example, 36,000 feet is reported as Flight Level 360 (FL360).
China still requires aircraft to report their height in meters rather than feet.
Even vs Odd Flight Levels
In the majority of airspace around the world, if an aircraft is travelling Eastbound (heading 360 – 179 degrees) they must fly at an odd flight level (e.g. FL330). An aircraft heading Westbound (180 – 359 degrees) must fly at an even flight level (e.g. FL380). Exceptions to this include specific airways and the airspace over the North Atlantic.
How High Did Concorde Fly?
Concorde still holds the record for the highest commercial passenger aircraft cruise altitude. Because of its unique design and powerful engines, Concorde was able to cruise at about 60,000 feet or 18,000 meters (10 miles up). Despite Concorde being retired in 2003, current commercial passenger jets still can’t get anywhere near this cruising altitude.
How High do Light Aircraft Fly?
Small, unpressurised, light propeller aircraft typically fly up to about 10,000 feet. Smaller aircraft like a Cessna 152 or PA-28 are limited in their maximum altitude due to the limitations of their piston engines and the oxygen requirements above this altitude.
However, some supercharged single engine piston aircraft, like the SR22, can reach altitudes of up to 25,000.
How High do Military Aircraft Fly?
Advanced military fighter jets like the F22 Raptor, F35 Lightning or the Eurofighter Typhoon can reach altitudes of between 50,000 – 65,000ft.
How High can Business Jet Fly?
Some business jet aircraft such as the Global 6000, the Falcon 5X and the Gulfstream G650 can reach altitudes of 51,000 feet. This is about 10,000 feet higher than the maximum cruising altitude of most commercial passenger planes.
What is the Highest Altitude a Plane has Ever Reached?
The highest altitude ever recorded by an aircraft with an ‘air breathing’ engine is the SR-71 Blackbird which could reach approximately 90,000 feet. Rocket propelled aircraft can travel higher but these are not considered aircraft in this sense.