Thought experiment (hopefully we don't need to crash a plane to figure this out);(adsbygoogle = window.adsbygoogle || []).push({});

Let's say we lift a commercial airliner up to 40,000 feet with a large balloon and then drop the airplane. It will hit the ground sometime later somewhere short of the speed of sound (600 mph or so, depending on it's orientation on the way down, I posit it will nose dive perpendicularly for maximum velocity).

Now let's take another plane, this one flying at 600 mph at 40,000 feet, and suddenly, the pilot shoves the stick forward, and dives the plane straight into the ground.

In the second case, the plane doesn't accelerate to 1200 mph on the way down as we might have thought at first take. The plane will reach the ground much faster in the second case and gravity has less time to further accelerate the plane. So it will hit the ground somewhat faster than in the first case, but will not be traveling twice as fast at the moment of impact.

Is there an 'energy deficit' in the second case? The plane has moved through earth's gravity field the same distance, but in a faster time. Is there additional energy manifested in the system somewhere that I have not noted? Like the wreckage will be warmer in the second case?

Do the 'books balance' energy wise in both crashes?

**Physics Forums | Science Articles, Homework Help, Discussion**

Dismiss Notice

Join Physics Forums Today!

The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

# Airplane crash energy budget

**Physics Forums | Science Articles, Homework Help, Discussion**