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87 votes

Do pilots adjust the aircraft's flight path to allow for the curvature of the Earth?

Aircraft altitude is measured (inferred) by atmospheric pressure. The aircraft is usually flown at an altitude that maintains constant ambient pressure (by pilot or autopilot, as the case may be). ...
aeroalias's user avatar
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78 votes

Do pilots adjust the aircraft's flight path to allow for the curvature of the Earth?

There is no adjustment needed as the aircraft will naturally follow the curvature of the earth without any input from the pilot. This is because the aircraft flies through the atmosphere which also ...
Mike Sowsun's user avatar
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65 votes
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Would a slower speed and lower altitude reduce fatal incidents?

I'd like to answer this question by debunking the premise of the question: that most plane crashes happen when planes fall out of the sky, and that it's like rock climbing where the higher you are, ...
RealAnswersNotAI's user avatar
61 votes

Would a slower speed and lower altitude reduce fatal incidents?

It would likely create a more deadly situation. In aviation altitude is your friend. Generally speaking altitude in the case of an emergency buys you time to work the problem. Generally you want to ...
Dave's user avatar
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51 votes

Was the transatlantic crossing for Concorde too short to reach optimal cruising altitude?

The simple answer is that the Concorde had no single assigned altitude, it was allowed to climb freely above ~FL450; this is discussed in depth in episode 166 – Flying the Concorde (worth the listen ...
Dave's user avatar
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46 votes

Is there a place where altitude while flying is negative?

There are quite a few airports near sea level since many larger cities are located near the sea. There are even some airports below sea level. Amsterdam Schiphol is somewhat famous for it (at least ...
Bianfable's user avatar
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39 votes
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Why is 0 ft a valid target altitude for an autopilot?

Quite simply, it's because sometimes you fly below sea level. There's a couple stories out there of aircraft navigation systems acting a bit odd due to their flight below sea level. For example, there ...
M28's user avatar
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34 votes
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How does an aircraft descend without its nose pointing down?

A plane descends when it does not have enough thrust to maintain its altitude. A plane can descend with its nose pointed up or down so long as there is not enough thrust to maintain altitude. Altering ...
Dave's user avatar
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32 votes
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On Air France 447, what would have been the lowest altitude to initiate recovery after the stall developed?

For the stalled flight to recover, the nose needs to be pointed in the airstream, and then the aircraft pulled up with load factor below the ultimate load. From the accident report: The recordings ...
Koyovis's user avatar
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30 votes

Do pilots adjust the aircraft's flight path to allow for the curvature of the Earth?

There isn't an adjustment for altitude. An aircraft flying level at a given altitude and trimmed for level flight will stay at that altitude. That means the flight path will have a gentle nose-down ...
Dan Hulme's user avatar
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29 votes
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How can skydivers start at 15,000 feet without the jumper suffering from hypoxia?

They don't. Hypoxia is an actual concern in medium and high altitude skydiving. It has been specifically researched as a possible safety risk. Skydivers jumping from over 10,000 ft do begin to exhibit ...
Therac's user avatar
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27 votes
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What is the maximum altitude ATC would deal with?

There are many examples of aircraft with high service ceilings. While most commercial aircraft have service ceilings of FL410 and rarely fly even that high, many business jets have a service ceiling ...
fooot's user avatar
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27 votes

Why cruise at 7000' in an A319?

The only reason for your flight to operate at such low altitude is because it is cheaper for them to do so. As you said it is due to weather, other route/altitude may not be available. They can ...
vasin1987's user avatar
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27 votes
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Is there a place where altitude while flying is negative?

Short answer If you just wanted to know some places below sea level then there are plenty of related collections for places and airports and there is little interest to copy them here. But actually ...
mins's user avatar
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26 votes
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What is the minimum altitude needed to return to the takeoff airport in a 737 after dual engine failure?

Most modern airliners have L/Ds of 18 to 22:1 (sorry I couldn't find a direct reference). So from one nautical mile, 6076 ft, in the air you can glide around 18 to 22 nm in still air. Departure climb ...
John K's user avatar
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26 votes
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Is there anything important to know about flying at ~9000ft for the first time?

There's really not that much difference between flying at 3,500ft and 9,000ft, however yes there are a few things you should be aware of. The most important, as usual when operating an aircraft, is ...
Jamiec's user avatar
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25 votes
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Which source to use when reporting the current altitude to ATC?

When asked for altitude, you report the altimeter reading, utilizing the correct barometric pressure entered into the Kollsman window. ATC separates traffic based upon indicated altitude. The ...
mongo's user avatar
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25 votes

Is air to air refuelling possible at "cruising altitude"?

The main limitation is that the receiver needs to have enough excess thrust available to be able to precisely maintain formation on the tanker. Near the service ceiling, you typically don't have a lot ...
Ralph J's user avatar
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24 votes

Was the transatlantic crossing for Concorde too short to reach optimal cruising altitude?

Concorde had a 10,000fpm climb and a max altitude of 60,000ft, so time to climb was not a problem. It had an optimum cruise altitude that varied with weight, so as it burned fuel it climbed higher to ...
Pilothead's user avatar
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23 votes
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How exactly can an airship lose lift?

The reason is a temperature difference between the lift gas and the surrounding air, and probably water uptake by the hull when descending through clouds. A given mass of hydrogen will create a ...
Peter Kämpf's user avatar
22 votes

Do pilots adjust the aircraft's flight path to allow for the curvature of the Earth?

This is more of a physics question rather than an aviation question. While other answers have addressed the question from the aerodynamics point of view, let me try answering it from a physics ...
kevin's user avatar
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21 votes

What is the maximum altitude ATC would deal with?

There is no maximum altitude for ATC service. ATC will deal with anything that flies over their airspace. In the US, Class A airspace ends at FL600. Meaning if you fly above 60,000 feet (pressure ...
kevin's user avatar
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21 votes
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How high can an airplane be spotted with eyesight?

Note: There is some confusion in the comments about this answer. What I am answering here is the question: Suppose a plane has a wingspan of 15 m then at what distance it will appear as a faint dot?...
Bianfable's user avatar
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21 votes

What is the minimum altitude needed to return to the takeoff airport in a 737 after dual engine failure?

First, the actual "impossible turn possible" altitude number is going to vary dramatically by factors such as hot, high, heavy, wind, how wind interacts with your departure path, and ...
Harper - Reinstate Monica's user avatar
20 votes
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Why do "angels" mean MSL, not AGL?

It was originally Royal Air Force slang for altitude in thousands and not a way of pronouncing AGL. Up in the air, where the angels fly. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RAF_slang Angels 10 meant 10,...
Simon's user avatar
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