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At some stage while on approach to an airport in a commercial jet, it feels like the plane is almost coming to a complete stop in mid-air. Is this maybe as a result of the flaps engaging or the landing gear creating drag?

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    $\begingroup$ I don't think those answers address the question. The sensation of stopping comes from the deceleration from the thrust reduction plus the beginning of the descent pitchover. Both effects happen when the airplane captures the glideslope and starts on down, and that plus the sound dropping with the thrust reduction creates the sensation/illusion that you are no longer moving. $\endgroup$
    – John K
    Mar 11, 2021 at 3:43
  • $\begingroup$ I agree, the linked answer does not really answer this question. I voted to reopen. $\endgroup$ Mar 11, 2021 at 12:29

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Lowering flaps and gear will add significant drag, which causes the plane to decelerate. Your body feels that, but without visual reference to the ground, your brain has no way to know what speed it was traveling before or after that deceleration.

This is an example of “spatial disorientation”, where the brain gets confusing inputs and comes to the wrong conclusion about what is actually happening. Pilots have instruments to tell us what is actually happening, which we are trained to trust over the suspect data our bodies are giving us, but passengers don’t have that advantage.

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