Every time I have landed on a airplane reverse thrust is needed, but what if the runway is 18,000ft long. Because if the runway is longer couldn't you save fuel by not using the reverse exhaust

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    $\begingroup$ The first question I linked also includes when it needs to be used, and the second one talks about how useful different braking methods are. $\endgroup$
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2 Answers 2


Reverse thrust is never needed.

A reverse thrust is relatively complex thing that can easily fail and for this reason when deciding whether an aircraft can land at some runway, the calculations are done without assuming reverse thrust. And of course the stopping distance for aborted take-off is also without thrust reverser, because if your engine failed, it won't provide any.

The reason to use reverse thrust is to reduce wear of the brakes and tires. The kinetic energy of the aircraft is huge and when it gets converted to heat in the brakes, they can get pretty hot. So if available, pilots always use reverse thrust to ease the brakes.

But it's not a big deal if not available. Thrust reversers are on MEL (minimum equipment list) for most if not all aircraft meaning the aircraft can be dispatched with thrust reversers inoperative. The brake wear will be higher from the more intensive braking, but it is better than having a plane wait for spare parts at some remote location.

Regarding long runways, there is almost always a possibility to turn off the runway earlier, which often saves time for the aircraft (shorter route to taxi) and makes the runway available for next aircraft sooner. So pilots usually still want to use some reasonable braking.

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    $\begingroup$ Don't you mean they are NOT on the MEL? $\endgroup$
    – TomMcW
    Aug 7, 2015 at 22:48
  • $\begingroup$ An example where you hardly feel the pilot brake, let alone use the reversers, is runway 14 at LNK. It's 8,750ft long, the only sensible exit to the terminal is at the far end and traffic is very light. A typical passenger plane flying into there is something like a CRJ-100, which requires barely half that runway length even at MTOW. $\endgroup$ Aug 7, 2015 at 23:22
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    $\begingroup$ @TomMcW Nope - it's a slightly confusing name, but it would be impractical to list every piece of equipment / nut and bolt on an aircraft so the MEL only lists pieces of equipment (With caveats as required) that aren't required. $\endgroup$
    – Dan
    Aug 8, 2015 at 9:10

Aircraft don't need thrust reversers on a long runway, in fact they often don't need it at all. It just helps in decelerating, reducing the wear and tear of the brakes and tires. That comes at the cost of fuel, but it saves on downtime replacing brake discs and tires.

Another reason to use the reverser is that sometimes it saves taxi time to take an earlier runway exit. This saves fuel and time = money.

  • $\begingroup$ Can you specify the cost saving with shorter taxiing? $\endgroup$ Sep 26, 2020 at 18:53

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