Is it possible to determine a common distance from the runway threshold at which an airliner climbs above 300 metres and 550 metres above-ground-level (AGL)?

And for landings? Where do they descend below it?

I need to determine at least an approximate value of common distance. But in the best case I’d like to determine:

  • the maximum distance
  • the minimum distance
  • the average distance or the distance which is used by most airliners.

I am not from aviation, thus I need to ask this question to professional pilots. The aim is related with the “Bird strike problem”. 300 m and 550 m – is respectively the common height and the maximum height of flight of Black vulture - a bird species living in South and North Americas which caused the most strikes with aviation within its range. I’m doing the scientific research and study the risk of collision with this bird and the possible measures to decrease this risk.

  • 17
    $\begingroup$ oh, come on guys, you and this "not clear" votes. read the question and is clear plenty, needs only a bit of polishing due to unfamiliarity of the OP with the terminology. $\endgroup$
    – Federico
    Commented Nov 22, 2016 at 14:27
  • $\begingroup$ I do not understand the question. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 22, 2016 at 15:52
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @user6035379 "When are planes between 300m and 550m in regards to the runways (specifically horizontal distance)?" $\endgroup$
    – Delioth
    Commented Nov 22, 2016 at 17:59
  • $\begingroup$ @user6035379 - "It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt" - variously ascribed to A. Lincoln, M. Twain, A. Burns, the Bible (Proverbs 17:28), W. Shakespeare, J. M. Keynes, Empeco, L. F. Baum, St. Francis de Sales, Doc Rockwell, Mother Goose, Maurice Switzer, Confucius, and me. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 22, 2016 at 18:11
  • $\begingroup$ You may also try tracking websites, e.g. London Heathrow. Hovering an aircraft icon with the mouse shows its height. Other sites: FlightRadar24 -- FlightAware -- many other ones. These sites let you play with archived flights, you don't need to wait for actual departures/landings. You may also ask them whether they can and want to draw the contours on a map automatically from their flights database. $\endgroup$
    – mins
    Commented Nov 22, 2016 at 22:33

2 Answers 2


For the landing is quite easy.

Airliners usually approach an airport descending along $3^\circ$ slopes. This means that they will be 300m AGL approximately 5.7km before the runway threshold, and they will be at 550m AGL about 10.5km before the same point.

For the take-off the situation is a bit more complicated, as each aircraft will have a different performance. Taking a value of about 1000ft/min for the vertical velocity and 200Kts for the forward velocity (in aviation we use the imperial system, for a bit of background see here) we get similar distances to the above (it is a $2.8^\circ$ slope)

Note that these paths are more or less a straight continuation of the runway, particularly on the landing side (less so on the take off side).

Each airport has approach and departure procedures, you could try to have a look at those. They are usually published by Jeppesen.

  • $\begingroup$ It might be useful to add that these paths are aligned (more or less) with the runways. A bird 6km from the runway at 350m is less at risk of collision if it's not on an approach or departure path. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 22, 2016 at 14:51
  • $\begingroup$ @DanPichelman you're right, I'll edit. $\endgroup$
    – Federico
    Commented Nov 22, 2016 at 14:52
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I think a figure closer to 1500-2000 fpm would be more accurate for climb. $\endgroup$
    – J W
    Commented Nov 22, 2016 at 14:58
  • $\begingroup$ @JonathanWalters I'm open for improvements. I couldn't find good data on the spot and I went for a conservative figure. $\endgroup$
    – Federico
    Commented Nov 22, 2016 at 14:59
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ 3° is the typical standard, but there are exceptions. London City Airport, for example, flies a 5.5° approach glideslope (because of noise abatement rules). $\endgroup$
    – J...
    Commented Nov 22, 2016 at 18:17

There are no pre-set figure for this, as it depends on the airport and surrounding geography, aircraft performance, departure and approach procedures. ATC instructions, etc.

For departures, airports don't publish a standard point where you must reach these altitudes but they sometime publish Obstacle Departure Procedures (ODP) which will specify a minimum climb gradient which the performance capabilities of your aircraft must be able to achieve in order to safely fly the ODP. This gradient is usually listed in hundreds of feet per nautical mile. ODPs assume that you, the pilot will be able to achieve an initial climb of 500 FPNM and an altitude of at least 35 ft above field elevation by the time you clear the departure end of the runway, climb straight ahead to an altitude of at least 400 ft AFE prior to beginning your first turns from runway heading, thence maintain a climb gradient at or above the minimum listed to the waypoint listed on the ODP.

An example is as follows: Glenview Airport (KABC) has a RIVER1 ODP, which requires your aircraft to depart runway 27 thence

"climbing right turn to a heading 307° to intercept the 287° radial from the ABC vortac to CYRAC intersection 16 DME from ABC at or above 4500 feet, thence resume own navigation. Minimum climb gradient of 450 feet per NM to CYRAC."

If you are flying a C-172 and assuming a Vy of 76 KIAS, you must achieve a rate of climb of (450*76)/60 = 570 feet per min from the departure end of runway to CYRAC intersection in order to safely fly this departure procedure.

Descent and landing will usually involve the use of feeder routes from established Juliet (Jet) airways onto Standard Terminal Arrival Routes (STARs) which have established step down fixes at specific waypoints along the STAR or as advised by ATC. The STARs then feed into the specific instrument approaches for the destination airport which also has step down fixes prior to final approach fix which descends from there to either a missed approach point (non-precision app) or a decision altitude (precision app). A pilot must have confirmed visual acquisition of the runway environment from that point and the weather at the airport must be at or above the published minimums in order to continue to approach and land, else the pilot must go missed and fly the missed approach procedures for that plate.


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