When To Start Your Descent When Flying

If you are ever in a situation where you cannot get immediate guidance on what to do when dealing with descending your airplane, we are here to share some very useful information and tips on how to never forget when to safely start your descent to land.

 

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What To Do Before You Descend Your Aircraft

Preparation for the arrival and approach begins long before the descent from the enroute phase of flight. Planning early, while there are fewer demands on the pilot’s attention, leaves the pilot free to concentrate on precise control of the aircraft and better equipped to deal with problems that might arise during the last segment of the flight.

 

Pilots Need to Plan Ahead When Preparing for Landing

Planning the descent from cruise is important because of the need to dissipate altitude and airspeed in order to arrive at the approached destination. Descending early results in more flight at low altitudes with increased fuel consumption and starting down late results in problems controlling both airspeed and descent rates on the approach.

Prior to flight, pilots need to calculate the fuel, time, and distance required to descend from the cruising altitude to the approach gate altitude for the specific instrument approach at the destination airport. While in flight prior to the descent, it is important for pilots to verify landing weather to include winds at their intended destination. Inclement weather at the destination airport can cause slower descents and missed approaches that require a sufficient amount of fuel that should be calculated prior to starting the descent. In order to plan the descent, the pilot needs to know the cruise altitude, approach gate altitude or initial approach fix altitude, descent groundspeed, and descent rate.

 

Cross Country Flying – Tips for Starting Your Descent

Not sure when to start your descent on a cross country flight and there’s no instructor there to help you out?

A good rule of thumb for starting a descent on a cross country flight is to use a 3-degree descent angle. To find out your top of descent for a 3-degree descent is to divide the altitude you need to lose by 300.

So, if you are at 8,000 feet and need to descend to a pattern altitude of 2,000 feet, take the difference of 6,000 and divide by 300 to get a distance of 20 miles. You should start your descent no later than this.

 

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Source: https://www.faa.gov/regulations_policies/handbooks_manuals/aviation/instrument_procedures_handbook/media/FAA-H-8083-16B_Chapter_3.pdf

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