I am sorry if this is not the right forum for this thread. Let"s say that a aircraft flies at FL380 on a clear day how far away can one see from the aircraft. Also if one is on the ground how far away (distance) from where the aircraft is can you see it?
Viscount724Posts: 19316Joined: Thu Oct 12, 2006 7:32 pm
Here"s a calculator which should answer your questions. Just plug in the altitude to obtain the approximate distance to the horizon. http://www.ringbell.co.uk/info/hdist.htm
B747forever
Quoting Viscount724 (Reply 1):
So when a airplane cruise at FL380 one can see about 239miles away and the airplane can be seen by people on the ground 239miles away.

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BellerophonPosts: 535Joined: Thu May 09, 2002 10:12 am
Viscount742An interesting and useful little calculator - thanks for posting the reference - I"ve been playing around with it.Cruising at max altitude, on my latest aircraft type, the horizon is 28 minutes flying time away.Cruising at a much higher max altitude on a previous aircraft type, the horizon was only 14 minutes flying time away!
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Best RegardsBellerophon
timzPosts: 6581Joined: Fri Sep 17, 1999 7:43 am
If you"re looking at Mt Shasta from FL 380 over the Central Valley it should be visible from at least 300 miles. Roughly, distance to the horizon from Mt Shasta, plus distance to the horizon from FL 380.
j0rdanPosts: 63Joined: Fri Feb 05, 2010 10:04 pm
Another formula you can use is: Distance seen in miles = 1.23 (X) square root of altitude in feet Jordan
When you are FL380 the horizon is 239NM away, but people on ground won"t see you when you are 239NM from their vertical. The maximum i have ever seen from ground is contrails from approx. 80NM.
Quoting Arniepie (Reply 8):
Soooo in other words, you can"t know for sure how far, but either way we can agree it"s pretty far!
Some useless knowledge: a quick rule of thumb for radio line-of-right calculations is to pretend the earth"s radius is 1.33 bigger than actual. Due to diffraction.
Quoting TS-IOR (Reply 7):When you are FL380 the horizon is 239NM away, but people on ground won"t see you when you are 239NM from their vertical. The maximum i have ever seen from ground is contrails from approx. 80NM.
True. No way you can see 240 miles
I recall a TWA transcon heading westbound one evening where the pilot came on and said the people on the left side of the plane could see the lights of St Louis while those on the right could see Chicago.

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nomadd22Posts: 1572Joined: Fri Feb 22, 2008 7:42 pm

RE: How Far Away Can One See From A Aircraft?

Fri Jun 25, 2010 5:21 pm


Diffraction will only add about 40 miles to the distance of the horizon. If you"re flying around Tibet, all things considered, you should be able to see Everest peeking over the horizon at close to 500 miles.
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