When do I descend? How many FPM should I descend at?

It depends on your altitude, speed, aircraft, location, etc. There are many descent calculators found on the internet. Here is a good one:

1 Like

Here’s a great site where you input details such as speed, altitude and how far you are from the airport and it will calculate the top of descent for you.

More resources and helpful website can be found On this thread.


I do my own way (terribly efficient):

The wind can push you or slower you, you don’t give! It works with other than A320.
[edit] example : flying at 31000 ft airport at 1000 ft, (31-1)/2 = 15 minutes


I usually do:
(Altitude - Airport Elevation) × 3 : 1000

Works really good for me.

I usually start decent 30-20 minutes before landing.

Here’s the formula @RAH had told me a while ago:

Altitude / 1000 x 3 = miles required for descent

Example: 30,000ft

So 30,000 / 1000 x 3 = 90 miles

So when I have 90 miles to go I’ll start a descent, maybe a base figure such as 1500ft per minute to start with. Cross check regularly, so at 28,000ft I should have 84 miles to go. If at that point I have roughly 84 miles to go then I’ll leave the VS where it is, if I have considerably less, maybe 70 miles to go then I’ll increase the rate of descent to ‘catch up’ with the profile, and vice versa.


If your more of a mathy person, you can use the formula:
GS x 5
CA / (GS x 5)
(CA / (GS x 5)) x GS / 60

GS = ground speed
CA = cruise altitude
() = do whats in brackets first

Or you could just use one of those calculators that others have mentioned! :)

1 Like

Or follow a STAR👀

1 Like

STARs usually don’t give altitude, V/S, and airspeed instructions all the way from cruise. A STAR is simply an approach chart, which is commenced when starting the approach, not all the way from cruise. The centre or approach (in real life) controller will usually tell the aircraft when to descend and speed.

This topic was automatically closed 90 days after the last reply. New replies are no longer allowed.