Plane Sailing

There was a story on the BBC News website recently about a pilot (from Sunderland) who was recalling the recent events where he nearly crashed in the Channel Islands.

Mark Eddlestone’s single-engine aircraft began plummeting at 300ft-a-minute as the crew headed to Jersey.

Plummeting at 300ft-a-minute? There’s nothing plummeting about a descent rate of 300ft/minute. That’s a very gentle downward slope for even the most nervous of passengers.

Don’t forget that once descending at a constant rate, it’s only air pressure which tells you that you’re dropping in height. You can only sense a change in rate of speed (i.e. acceleration), not speed itself. That’s why in a car you can feel hard acceleration yet you’re only doing 30mph, but you can’t feel anything at a constant 70mph.

Plummeting indeed.