If you plan on becoming an FAA dispatcher, one of the concepts that you will need to learn is minimum altitude and what the perfect altitude for flying airplanes is. In aviation, minimum safe altitude is a generic expression used to describe the minimum altitude that is needed to avoid obstacles or terrain. One thing that pilots and prospective aircraft dispatchers need to understand is that there is not one universal safe altitude since some terrains or objects may be taller than others. Rather, the accepted metric is that this altitude needs to be at least 500 feet above the terrain or obstacle in question. To learn more about this aviation concept, read the article below penned by the Sheffield School of Aeronautics.
How Far Up Do Planes Fly?
When it comes to the average altitude that a plane flies at, there is not one universally accepted answer. This is because airplanes are made with different technologies and capabilities. Most commercial flights fly at an altitude of about 36,000 feet. There are many reasons why airplanes fly at this altitude, with one of the most pertinent being fuel efficiency. The higher that something goes into the atmosphere, the thinner the air that a plane will be flying through. This thinner air creates less drag on the aircraft, which in turn makes it more fuel efficient.
Commercial aircraft also fly at such high altitudes to avoid traffic from other aircraft. Large commercial planes avoid smaller aircraft at these altitudes since smaller aircraft, like drones and helicopters, do not usually go so high in the air. The height that an airplane or aircraft go is entirely dependent on its size, build, purpose, and capabilities.
Minimum IFR Altitude
When it comes to flight dispatching and flight planning, important concepts to understand are IFR altitude and VFR altitude. These two concepts have to do with the type of planning that a pilot or aircraft will need to do, depending on the kind of flight that they will be doing. IFR stands for instrument flight rules and is a set of guidelines that determine the characteristics of a flight that needs more in-depth planning because of the meteorological conditions that the aircraft will be undergoing. The reason that this kind of flight planning has the word “instrument” in it is that pilots rely more on the instruments inside of the cockpit as opposed to relying on their own vision. When a pilot needs to fly with an IFR flight plan, they usually need to file a flight plan ahead of time. This means that they will have to fly at a determined altitude and pass through established waypoints (geographic coordinates.) The minimum IFR altitude is 1,000 feet above the highest obstacle with a horizontal distance of four nautical miles from the course to be flown.
Flight and Pilot Safety at High Altitudes
Just because most aircraft are designed to be used in high altitudes does not mean that they are completely safe. Pilots need to follow specific safety procedures and guidelines to make sure that their crew and passengers are as safe as possible. For one, aircraft fly at higher speeds the higher that they are, meaning that pilots need to be extremely careful when approaching runways or changing their course. Also, the oxygen levels inside the cockpit need to be monitored so that the risk of depressurization and lack of oxygen are mitigated.
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