Many people, going on a long journey for the first time, think about the upcoming flight with apprehension and worry before their first flight. However, according to statistics, the plane is the safest mode of transport in the world. All fears arise from ignorance and inexperience. Therefore, in order to overcome the fear of flying on an airplane, you should learn more about the altitude at which airplanes fly.
What is the ideal altitude for an airplane?
The maximum flight altitude of the aircraft depends on the model of the liner – each has its own "ideal" altitude, at which the aircraft can consume the minimum amount of fuel and at the same time experience the most minimal resistance.
The higher the altitude, the thinner the air becomes. Each aircraft is distinguished by its most efficient movement corridor, in which the ratio of air to friction is considered ideal.
Depending on the technical features of the vessel, the pilot chooses the most efficient flight altitude at which speed and fuel consumption are in the correct ratio. By the way, during the ascent of the aircraft, the most fuel is consumed, so the pilots try to raise the vessel as smoothly as possible and at the same time, as quickly as possible.
After the aircraft reaches the values recommended by the dispatcher, passengers in the cabin will see that the lights of their seat belts have turned off, which means that now the belts can be unfastened.
How is the maximum flight altitude determined?
With the development of aviation, the principles of measuring height have changed and improved, and today there are several such methods.
Once, a very long time ago, sailors measured the depth of a place with a special device – a lot. This measuring device was a simple rope with a load at the end. Height was measured in the same way. The device for measuring it is called an echo sounder.
Of course, it is currently unacceptable to measure the flight altitude of aircraft with a rope. Today, more modern methods are used for this, for example, barometric. It is known that the higher the altitude, the lower the atmospheric pressure at that altitude. Its fall is due to such factors as the distribution of temperature, air density and pressure in the atmosphere. This distribution is called the International Standard Atmosphere.
Experts take into account the patterns of this phenomenon and display it visually. To do this, for example, use the index arrow moving along the scale. This scale is graduated in units of height (meters or feet). This pointer is called an altimeter or altimeter. However, the latter name is most often used in other countries, and in Russia it is considered obsolete.
In general, the invention of the altimeter was made in 1843 by the French scientist Lucien Vidi. This first instrument was called an aneroid barometer. However, at that time, of course, it was not used in aviation. But with the development of aviation, the sensitive and compact aneroid barometer proved to be a very useful instrument, despite the fact that certain errors were sometimes observed in its measurements. In 1903, with the help of such a device, the first flight of an aircraft with a propeller engine was officially recorded. The flight height was 3 meters above the ground.
However, any similar device was distinguished by its errors and shortcomings. The most common among them were:
- Instrumental, due to imperfections in the manufacture of instruments.
- Aerodynamic errors were allowed due to insufficiently accurate pressure measurements at high altitudes.
- Methodological errors arose due to the impossibility of the device, located at a height, to fix the pressure and temperature near the ground.
However, modern altimeters are devoid of all these shortcomings and allow you to accurately determine the altitude of an aircraft.
Aircraft flying at maximum altitude
1 MiG-25, MiG-31
The flight altitude of this Soviet supersonic high-altitude fighter-interceptor is 37,650 meters. The development of the MiG-25 military aircraft began in the 1950s. The purpose of the development is to reflect the perceived threats from the American B-58 supersonic bombers and its other modernized successors. Tests of the MiG-25 showed several world records in the field of aviation at once. In total, aircraft of this type set as many as 29 world records. 25 years ago, a modernized, more advanced model of this aircraft, the MiG-31, was created, which today deservedly has the title of the fastest and highest-altitude combat aircraft in the world.
2 F-104 Starfighter
The developer of the single and double fighter, fighter-interceptor and fighter-bomber F-104 is Lockheed. The company began to develop the project in 1951, relying mainly on the experience of the war in Korea. The maximum flight altitude of this aircraft is 31513 m, however, due to the high accident rate, it was nicknamed the “widowmaker", that is, making widow pilots out of wives. Also, a large number of accidents contributed to the fact that this ship was given another nickname – "flying coffin".
The manufacturer of the highest flying experimental rocket aircraft X-15 is the American company North American Aviation. On account of this manned hypersonic aircraft, there are already quite a few suborbital manned space flights. The maximum flight altitude of the X-15 is 107 km at a speed of about 6.72 M.
Flight altitude of passenger aircraft
Many people think that the altitude of an aircraft is only 10,000 kilometers above the ground. However, in reality this is not entirely true. For example, the flight altitude of large passenger liners is approximately 9-11 thousand km, and the maximum flight altitude of a passenger aircraft is 12 thousand km. But the “ceiling” (maximum height) of the largest passenger aircraft is 13,100 m. If the aircraft rises higher, it will begin to “fall down”. The reason for this is too rarefied air and a decrease in engine power, resulting in a significant increase in fuel consumption.