The speed at which a plane lands mainly depends on the type of aircraft, and environmental factors, like wind speed.
The length of the runway, altitude, ground effects, air pressure, air temperature, air traffic control, visibility, and generally just the overall situation can all affect landings, though not all will necessarily affect how fast or slow a plane lands.
Landing Speed By Aircraft Type
- Small Single Engine: A small single-engine plane lands at an average speed of approximately 100 knots (115 mph)
- Small Multi-Engine: A small multiple engine plane lands at an average speed of approximately 120 knots (138 mph)
- Commercial Airliner: A commercial airliner, like a Boeing 747, lands at an average speed of approximately 150 knots (172mph).
- Military jet: A military jet lands at an average speed of approximately 175 knots (200 mph)
Note that during crosswinds (when winds are not parallel to or directly with/against the line of travel), a plane may land faster to ensure a safer landing.
How Fast Do Planes Descend When Landing?
Typically, at around 100 to 120 miles from the destination airport, an airliner will begin its descent. However, this can vary depending on cruise altitude, weather conditions, and the amount of traffic heading to the same destination.
An airliner will typically begin its descent at a cruising altitude of 30,000 feet at 3,000 feet per minute. As it reaches 10,000 feet and below, a speed restriction of 250 knots is enforced, reducing the descent to a speed of approximately 1,500 feet per minute. When 10-15 miles from the destination, the airliner will slow to landing speed. When 5 miles from the runway, the slats and flaps are extended, reducing the airplane to its approach speed.
On average, it takes 30 minutes from the time a plane starts its descent to landing on the runway.
Why Does It Sometimes Feel Like the Plane is Speeding Up Before It Lands?
This occurs because as you sit in your seat there is a feeling that your seat is being accelerated forwards into you. However, during the transition phase between the final approach and the touchdown, what is actually happening is that gravity acts so you are actually being accelerated downwards into your seat.
Sometimes it can feel like a plane speeds up before it lands because it actually is. Adding power just before touchdown can result in a smoother landing.
Is Takeoff Or Landing More Dangerous?
There’s no doubt that landing is not only more dangerous than takeoff but that it is also the most dangerous part of any flight – and there are statistics to prove it. According to Boeing, 49% of all fatal aircraft accidents occur during the final descent and landing phases of a fight compared to 14% at takeoff.
Why is this?
Well, not only does a pilot have to deal with communicating with air traffic control, making sure they line up with the runway just right, and keep the crew informed, but they have to do these things while descending at over 100 miles per hour. There is also very little margin for error when landing, and the weather, like high winds, has more of an impact when trying to land than during takeoff or when cruising.