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Cruising Altitudes for Short Haul Flights

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I love playing with flightradar24 and have been doing so for a while. I've noticed short haul flights in Australia tend to reach very high altitudes, often more than even long haul flights nearing the end of their sectors. FL410 is routine for BNE-SYD , MEL-SYD and MEL-ADL legs, but even MEL-HBA flights often reach FL380, even though the straight line distance is just 617km.

 

Tonight, was again playing with Flightradar24 and noticed a Launceston-Melbourne Boeing 738 flight reaching FL400. never have I seen such a short haul flight reach such an altitude, but with a stiff northerly wind at both locations, the flight was a straight-out departure to the north from 32L at LST with a straight-in approach to RWY 34 at MEL, a total distance of just 476km (257nm).

 

Was interesting watching the descent for this flight, after spending probably less than 5 minutes at cruise alt.... I timed it from about FL310 to FL160 at less than 4 minutes.

 

Now, most flights tend to stick to more normal 1500-3000fpm descents and start down much earlier than this guy did!

 

peak descent rate at 6000FPM! Is there any advantage to climbing so high for such a short leg, and is this practice common at all? Seems like a pointless waste of fuel using climb power for only a couple of minutes cruise as opposed to levelling off at a lower alt and using cruise power for a longer timespan.

 

 

high.jpg

 

vozdescent.jpg

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Well it's more economical fuel wise at higher altitudes. And with these flights being short they don't have full fuel etc, so being lighter means they can climb faster to higher more economic altitudes.

Because they're usually not as heavy as long haul flights climbing wouldn't take as much fuel as it would if you were at MGW.

 

And yes those climb and descent figures are accurate. Again those aircraft are light, impressive hey?

 

Cheers

Lee


 

 

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Ideally you want to get as high as possible in the shortest amount of time (not talking about a holiday in Amsterdam..)

 

Unfortunately in other parts of the world this is not always possible, many short haul flights within Europe, EGLL- LFPG for example will have you kept at FL250/240 by ATC

 

As I am sure you know, cruising at lower altitudes results in a higher fuel burn, a no derate climb to higher altitudes keeps the bean counters happy.

 

Regards


Rob Prest

 

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The FMC usually gives an optimum altitude.

 

It is not ALWAYS best to go as high as possible, as if the flight is short enough, it is obviously more fuel efficient to stay lower


Alex Ridge

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Another reason why they can climb so high in Australia then compared to say KLAX to KSFO is the air space is not as busy on a flight from YLST to YMEL. ATC probably won't give permission to go as high in busier airspaces.

 

It is really impressive though, from sea level to FL400 and back to sea level in routes around 600 km. More impressive with the new Point Merge approaches being implemented as their are less congestion now.

 

I have been following airports that are now operating Point Merge in flightradar24. Amsterdam Schiphol is a great one for that, especially when it is real busy.


Matthew Kane

 

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Ideally you want to get as high as possible in the shortest amount of time (not talking about a holiday in Amsterdam..)

 

LOL, nice one.

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