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Too High? 7 Things You Can Do To Descend Quickly

This story was made in partnership with LIFT Academy. Check out the full series here. Want to be a pilot? Get started with LIFT Academy here.

We've all been left a little too high to make a crossing restriction or a safe visual approach. Here's what you can do to descend quickly...

1) Slow Down!

The first thing you should do when you need to descend quickly is slow down. The higher your groundspeed, the higher descent rate required to meet a crossing restriction.

2) Deploy Spoilers

Spoilers are there for a reason. If you've got them, use 'em. In the last thousand feet of your descent, slowly retract the spoilers for a smooth level-off.

3) Configure Flaps Early

Slow below flap extension speed and get the first few notches of flaps down. Increase drag and lift will improve your descent rate at the same airspeed.

4) Put The Landing Gear Down Early

If you really need to slow down, extending the landing gear can be a great way to add a lot of drag. This is usually a pilot's last-ditch effort (when speed allows), because of the noise and vibrations caused by flying for extended times with gear-down.


5) Select Speed Mode And Reduce Power

Once you're configured for a descent, select the desired descent speed and bring the power to idle, or close to it. In combination, you'll get the maximum descent speed for the configuration/speed/power setting.

Swayne Martin

6) Ask ATC For Turns Or A "360"

There's no harm in asking ATC for a little help when you just can't make a crossing or look too high on final approach. Ask for extended vectors or a quick 360 to allow you enough time to descend.

7) Say "Unable"

When you receive an instruction you just can't comply with, say "unable." Explain you need more room to make the descent and you'll get a new crossing restriction.


How else can you descend quickly? Tell us in the comments below.

Thinking about becoming a pilot? Get started with Lift Academy, and find out what it takes to start your aviation career here.

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, and follow his flying adventures on his YouTube Channel.

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