Rate Of Descent: Meaning, Synonyms, Antonyms, Translation, Use Cases

rate of descent

Do you have any idea of what the phrase rate of descent means in the field of aeronautics?

If you don’t, this content will help you have a good understanding of this aviation term, its use in sentences, similarities while also taking a look at some of its various meanings.



The rate of descent in aviation is the duration of travel of which an aircraft experience a reduction in altitude as it is about to land.

It stands in contrast to an ascent or climbs with time.

The rate (speed) at which an aircraft is descending. It is typically expressed in feet per minute.

Also, it is the speed at which an airplane is trying to initiate a landing command with respect to time.



Landing speed

degree of touchdown

percentage of descent

scale of degression

fly rate

drop speed

grade of dive



rate of ascent

climb off speed

take-off speed



(/rt/, /dɪsent/) noun/verb, noun


Etymology of Use

Rate (/rt/): The term rate was first used in the 15th century.

Descent (/dɪsent/): The first known use of the word was in the 14th century.



French – vitesse descente

Spanish – velocidad descenso

Greek – αποτιμώ

Italian – velocità discendenza

Dutch – snelheid herkomst

Chinese –  被评价 斜坡


Use Cases

  • In order to execute an autorotative landing correctly, the pilot must reduce airspeed and rate of descent before landing. By shifting the cycle control to the back and adjusting the rotor disk’s attitude in reference to the relative wind, these two tasks can be partially completed.
  • Visual signals are the only immediately known, trustworthy (but not accurate) rate of descent prior to touchdown. To ensure that it is exact, pilots should be staring towards the horizon or the end of the runway.
  • The longer time between 20 feet and 10 feet indicates a slower rate of descent than the short time between 50 feet and 40 feet. This is a normal countdown, as the pilot flares the aircraft from several hundred feet per minute.
  • Seconds and minutes before that portion of the landing phase, pilots know the rate of descent using the VVI — vertical velocity indicator. It’s usually based on the barometric altimeter.


Frequently Asked Questions

What is the normal rate of descent for an airplane?

Usually about 500 ft /min to 1000/ft /min, they try not to do it so fast when it will upset passengers, spill drinks, etc.

Airliners prefer to descend gradually a long way from the destination, say approx 200+ miles away, throttling back and trading the altitude for distance for maximum fuel savings while still running the engines fast enough for the accessories to produce enough cabin air, electricity, hydraulics, etc.

How do pilots know the exact rate of descent when landing?

Visual signals are the only immediately known, trustworthy (but not accurate) rate of descent prior to touchdown. To gauge their rate of descent, pilots should be staring towards the horizon or the end of the runway. If the winds cooperate, they use it to land with a slow rate of fall.

Many airplanes feature a height above touchdown automatic voice in the cockpit that sounds seconds before that. It is based on a very accurate radio altimeter (also known as a radar altimeter), which vocally reports the height in feet while sending radio waves to the ground (the runway and overrun).



In aviation, the rate of touchdown is used to calculate how quickly an aircraft is descending (descent). The speed is specified in feet per minute. The altimeter and a stopwatch can be used to compute it precisely, although the pilot would typically glance at the Vertical Speed Indicator instead (VSI).


watch the video below to see how an airplane descends, and how the rate of descent is calculated in the next video.




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