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Ask the Pilot, with Captain Mike Bowers


Q: If a flight is delayed, can the airplane be flown faster to make up for lost time?
A: We measure our speed in Mach, with Mach 1 being the speed of sound. Depending on aircraft type, typical cruise speed is .78 Mach. The fastest a typical airliner can fly is about .85 Mach, so we can increase our speed slightly to make up for late departures. That increase of .07 Mach is about 42 miles per hour. At maximum speed, we can decrease flying time by about five minutes per hour. So, on a six-hour flight, we can shave off about 30 minutes. We don’t normally fly at maximum speed because at faster speeds airplanes consume more fuel and generate additional emissions and costs.

Do you have a question for Captain Bowers? You can write to him at askthepilot@united.com

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