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9 Reasons Jets Can Get Slow At Altitude

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You typically think of jets cruising at fast speeds at altitude. But in some cases, they can slow down unexpectedly. Here's why:

1) The engines

Aircraft with reciprocating engines are affected by temperature fluctuations, but jet engines are much more susceptible to temperature increases.

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2) Cruise altitude

Most GA aircraft don't cruise anywhere near their service ceiling. But that's not the case for jets like the CRJ - they spend quite a bit of time near their thrust-limited ceiling.

Cesar Meloni

3) Temperature

When you're flying in a warm air mass, there's greater risk of getting slow in a jet, because warm air means less power for a jet engine.

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4) Jet engines and temp

Jet engines produce thrust by compressing air, heating it, and accelerating it out of the back of the engine. And the more they can heat the air, the more power they produce. So when air is warmer than normal, they can't heat it as much, causing a performance penalty.

5) Getting slow at altitude

If your engines can't produce enough thrust at altitude, you'll start slowing down.

6) Thrust limited

This has become more of an issue with newer aircraft. Modern supercritical wings are so efficient that they can fly higher than most jet engines can take them. So the limiting factor on an aircraft like the CRJ is thrust - you just don't have enough of it at altitude.

7) The first step in recovery

So how do you recover from getting slow at altitude? The first step is max continuous thrust. But because you're most likely thrust limited, this isn't always enough to recover.

8) The second step

That's why the second step is to lower the nose, trading altitude for airspeed.

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9) Keeping your speed up

Temperature increases can cause real problems for jets at altitude. But by monitoring your speed, and knowing what to do if you get slow, you can keep yourself from getting near a stall buffet.

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