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Will a plane traveling faster glide farther than a plane traveling slower?

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Aerodynamics

If there was complete engine failure (and all other things being equal), would a passenger jet traveling at 600 mph when the engines stopped glide farther than a plane traveling at 400 mph when the engines stopped?

Logically, you can argue that, sure, the faster plane has more forward momentum and would travel farther.  However, I think there is an optimum speed for the glide ratio, and being too fast or too slow would decrease your glide distance.

Thus, the plane going 600 mph has slow down more to get to the optimum speed than does the plane traveling 400 mph, and less efficient glide during that slow down period would ultimately shorten the overall glide distance for the faster plane.

What say you, oh wise internet?

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1 Answers



  1. Brian on Apr 11, 2014

    You’re hinting at L/D max. Yes, a speed exists that is the most efficient glide speed for a given air frame design. If, in your scenario, two identically designed airplanes flew at those speeds one of them would glide farther. Which one? Well that’s a question of design. A space shuttles best glide speed might be 600 mph, where a 747’s might be 400 mph.

    In other words, fly best glide (L/D max) for best glide performance.

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