when is it a good time to start descending the plane

Like how many miles from airport?

It really depends at what altitude you are at…

If you’re in an airliner, about 180-150NM will do depending on your altitude. In some cases, a friendly APPR controller will assist during the rest of the descent

My method is this: I always decend to 3000 feet AGL when I am descending. So let’s say I cruised up to 33000 feet, well I look at my ete till my destination. When I reach 33 minutes left, I subtract that number by 3 (3000) so I will decend at 30 minutes remaining. It’s not a popular method but it works for me.

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Look over this topic. 😉


Hi! First, subtract the airports ground level from your altitude. Then multiply the altitude in thousands, how many thousand feet up you are from the airport. So 24,000ft will be 24. Multiply it by 3. That’s the distance you need to be when you decend. Then, for your speed. Multiply your GROUND SPEED by 5. That will give you your fpm to decend at. That’s how I do it. ;)

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@aviationex_91190 has linked a great thread to read, this you tube vid explains it clearly as well.


There are lots of great info on this site so if you have a question remember to have a search in the forums as they will have been asked before!

If you have an extra mobile device available during flight then I suggest you search for an app on this in your app store. I use Aviation Calculations for Android.

Calculations, rules of thumb are good, app is better 😊

In the app you enter:

  • current altitude
  • desired altitude
  • distance
  • ground speed

It will return a descent rate.
When you start and the app returns a descent rate of 1000 feet/minute or less, remain at cruise. It’s good to aim for a descent rate of around 1500 f/min.

Some apps allow you to enter the descent rates and they produce the distance.

Make sure you re-calculate as your ground speed chances as you descent.

From 35k feet, yeah. 180-150 nM.

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