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10 Factors You Should Consider For Your Cruise Altitude

There's a lot to consider when you're choosing a cruising altitude for your next cross country flight. Here are 10 things you should always take into account...

1) Federal Aviation Regulations

Busting through active restricted areas, TFRs, or controlled airspace without permission is a great way to get a violation... or maybe even intercepted.

Wikimedia

2) Time To Climb Vs. Total Trip Time

If it's only going to take you 20 minutes to get to your destination, why would you climb to an altitude that takes 10 minutes to reach?

GolfCharlie232

3) Winds Aloft Forecast

If you're looking to save time, money, and gas, knowing the strength of headwinds or tailwinds for different altitudes will make a huge difference on your flight.

Jim Raeder

4) Clouds

If you're a VFR pilot, you'll want to check the area forecast for bases and tops of clouds. And if you're IFR, make sure you stay out of icing conditions if you're not in a known-ice equipped airplane.

GolfCharlie232

5) Terrain

Check out your sectional chart for minimum safe terrain clearance altitudes.

wildvoid

6) True Airspeed

Picking an airspeed and groundspeed for best aircraft performance is always a good thing.

Jason Pineau

7) Fuel Consumption

Changing altitude results in changes in how your engine performs, as well as its fuel burn. The higher you go, the less fuel you'll burn, but you'll have less power too.

Jim Raeder

8) Physiological Factors

If you're not equipped with an oxygen system, it's best to stay below 12,500 feet.

Jim Raeder

9) Aircraft Limitations

It's probably not the best idea to try to take that Cessna 150 up to 14,000 feet. Keep you flight within your plane's reasonable limitations.

Jim Raeder

10) Turbulence

Check PIREPs, AIRMETs, and SIGMETs in your area for turbulence levels if you want a smooth ride.

Jim Raeder

What else do you take into consideration when choosing a cruising altitude? Tell us in the comments below.

Swayne Martin

Swayne is an editor at Boldmethod, certified flight instructor, and an Embraer 145 First Officer for a regional airline. He graduated as an aviation major from the University of North Dakota in 2018, holds a PIC Type Rating for Cessna Citation Jets (CE-525), and is a former pilot for Mokulele Airlines. He's the author of articles, quizzes and lists on Boldmethod every week. You can reach Swayne at swayne@boldmethod.com, and follow his flying adventures on his YouTube Channel.

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