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Ceiling (aeronautics)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

With respect to aircraft performance, a ceiling is the maximum density altitude an aircraft can reach under a set of conditions, as determined by its flight envelope.

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SUZANNA DARCY-HENNEMANN: At the University of Washington, I was in the aeronautics and astronautics department. And so I studied everything they had to offer. FRANK SANTONI: Suzanna's always told me she doesn't like to be remembered as a woman who was a test pilot, rather than a test pilot who happened to be a woman. Because it was her ability that got her to that position. INTERVIEWER: Suzanna Darcy-Hennemann's career at the Boeing company soared as high as the planes she piloted. BRIEN WYGLE: I had long wanted to increase the diversity of our group of test pilots. INTERVIEWER: Suzanna was an engineer when Brien Wygle met her as he toured the company's training facilities. Wygle learned that she was a private pilot. BRIEN WYGLE: I asked her if she was interested, which she was overwhelmingly interested. She was astonished, I suppose. SUZANNA DARCY-HENNEMANN: I was just a girl that wanted to fly. It was that simple. I got offered this amazing opportunity by Brien Wygle. CRAIG BOMBEN: Not all engineers can make the transition from engineer to a test pilot. And likewise, not all pilots can become test pilots, because they don't understand the engineering side of the house. INTERVIEWER: In 2005, she captained the first flight of the 777 LR. FRANK SANTONI: The whole company is with you. Everybody who's designed the airplane is with you hoping for your success. So to do first flight is just an honor, because a company is putting their trust in you. INTERVIEWER: That same year, she led the team that set a world record for distance traveled nonstop by a passenger plane. They flew from Hong Kong to London in just over 22 hours, a record that still stands. SUZANNA DARCY-HENNEMANN: We had a huge jet stream coming across the Pacific, we had a jet stream coming across the US, and we had a third jet stream across the Atlantic. So not only do we hold the record for distance, Hong Kong to London, but we also hold two speed records, one across the US and one across the Atlantic. You cannot plan for that. That was a gift from the universe. INTERVIEWER: She went on to become Boeing's chief training pilot and head of flight training operations. CRAIG BOMBEN: I would say that success came from her leadership. She was able to roll her sleeves up when they encountered problems during flight test, work with the design engineers, come up with practical solutions, and also fix whatever problem they were trying to fix and created a quality product that delivered value to our customers. INTERVIEWER: Suzanna became a role model for women in aerospace, and for anyone who aspires to break barriers and achieve their dreams. SUZANNA DARCY-HENNEMANN: And I always said, I have the best job in the Boeing company, because the CEO does have a lovely view from his office, but mine was from 2,000 to 35,000 feet flying the most beautiful places in the world in the most beautiful airplanes. And somebody paid me to follow what I was passionate about.


Service ceiling

Service ceiling is where the rate of climb drops below a prescribed value.

The service ceiling is the maximum usable altitude of an aircraft. Specifically, it is the density altitude at which flying in a clean configuration, at the best rate of climb airspeed for that altitude and with all engines operating and producing maximum continuous power, will produce a given rate of climb (a typical value might be 100 feet per minute climb or 30 metres per minute,[1] or on the order of 500 feet per minute climb for jet aircraft). Margin to stall at service ceiling is 1.5 g.[citation needed]

The one engine inoperative (OEI) service ceiling of a twin-engine, fixed-wing aircraft is the density altitude at which flying in a clean configuration, at the best rate of climb airspeed for that altitude with one engine producing maximum continuous power and the other engine shut down and feathered, will produce a given rate of climb (usually 50 feet per minute).[2]

However some performance charts will define the service ceiling as the pressure altitude at which the aircraft will have the capability of climbing at 50 ft/min with one propeller feathered.

Absolute ceiling

The absolute ceiling is the highest altitude at which an aircraft can sustain level flight. Due to the thin air at higher altitudes, a much higher true airspeed is required to generate sufficient lift on the wings. The absolute ceiling is therefore the altitude at which the engines are operating at maximum thrust, yet only generate enough lift to match the weight of the aircraft. Hence, the aircraft will not have any excess capacity to climb further. At absolute ceiling, the aircraft can no longer accelerate, since any acceleration will lead to higher airspeed and therefore excess lift. Stated technically, it is the altitude where the maximum sustained (with no decreasing airspeed) rate of climb is zero.

Most commercial jetliners have a service (or certificated) ceiling of about 42,000 ft (13,000 m)[citation needed] and some business jets about 51,000 ft (16,000 m).[3] Before its retirement, the Concorde Supersonic transport (SST) routinely flew at 60,000 ft (18,000 m). While the absolute ceiling of these aircraft is much higher than for standard operational purposes—in Concorde's case, it was tested to 68,000 ft (21,000 m)—it is impossible to reach for most (because of the vertical speed asymptotically approaching zero) without afterburners or other devices temporarily increasing thrust. Another factor that makes it impossible for some aircraft to reach their absolute ceiling, even with temporary increases in thrust, is the aircraft reaching the "coffin corner." Flight at the absolute ceiling is also not economically advantageous due to the low indicated airspeed which can be sustained: although the true airspeed (TAS) at an altitude is typically greater than indicated airspeed (IAS), the difference is not enough to compensate for the fact that IAS at which minimum drag is achieved is usually low, so a flight at an absolute ceiling altitude results in a low TAS as well, and therefore in a high fuel burn rate per distance traveled. The absolute ceiling varies with the air temperature and, overall, the aircraft weight (usually calculated at MTOW).[1]

See also


  1. ^ a b Climb Performance Archived 2015-06-25 at the Wayback Machine., page 10-7 / FAA "Pilot's Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge" (FAA-H-8083-25A)
  2. ^ FAA "Airplane Flying Handbook" (FAA-H-8083-3B) (PDF). 2016. pp. 3. Chapter 12: Transition to Multiengine Airplanes, page 12-9.
  3. ^ See e.g. Bombardier Global Express XRS Specifications.
This page was last edited on 2 November 2018, at 08:44
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