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According to Wikipedia:

Some aircraft are able to safely use reverse thrust in flight, though the majority of these are propeller-driven. Many commercial aircraft cannot use reverse thrust in flight

What are the repercussions to using reverse thrust while airborne?

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The wonderful Aerospatiale-BAC Concorde could use its reverse thrusters in flight to make 10000 fpm descents without overspeeding (I must've mentioned the Concorde in almost every one of my posts on Aviation SE XD) –  shortstheory Mar 2 at 12:26

2 Answers 2

up vote 10 down vote accepted

The problems are two-fold:

  1. The airspeed is much higher in flight than when landing, so the thrust reverser doors would have to be much stronger, and therefore heavier to withstand the additional forces, along with the relative wind making them harder to close.

  2. What happens when it gets stuck in the deployed position? Now you have to shut down a perfectly good engine and have additional drag on the airplane while in flight.

  3. (Bonus) It isn't really needed on most airplanes with spoilers, flaps, etc. that accomplish the same thing.

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The reversers on many jets significantly disrupt the air flow around the wing and are generally too powerful for use in flight.

There was a crash, Lauda Air Flight 004, that was caused by uncommanded reverser deployment in flight. Granted, it was asymmetric deployment, but the report cites loss of lift from reverser deployment (itself, not loss of speed due to it's prolonged operation), which would occur for symmetric deployment too.

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