Q: When I see another airplane in flight outside my window, how close might it be?
A: Aircraft are separated both vertically and horizontally. For flights conducted under Instrument Flight Rules (which all commercial airline flights are), the minimum separation is 1,000 feet vertically. In most cases, the airplanes directly above and below you are traveling in opposite directions. Planes at altitudes in odd thousands (such as 31,000 feet or “flight level 310”) head east, and planes at altitudes in even thousands (such as 32,000 feet or “flight level 320”) head west. All of our aircraft are equipped with a system that shows pilots the location of other traffic to ensure safety and the required minimum separation.
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