Have you ever realised that the aircraft was gliding almost every flight you have ever been on?
Let’s start with the technical part – the lower the power of the engine, the less fuel is burnt. When the aircraft lands, the thrust is set at its minimum, which means that the aircraft is effectively gliding with one engine shut down to save more fuel.
In fact, most aircraft can fly a long distance with no engine at all. All fixed-wing aircraft have some capability to glide with no engine power. They continue to glide horizontally while landing, instead of sinking straight down like a stone. For example, if both engines stop, the aircraft has 20-30 minutes to find somewhere to land. Thanks to the aircraft’s lift-to-drag ratio, which allows losing only 1 mile of altitude for every 10 miles, the aircraft travels forward. For example, if an aircraft loses its engines at an elevation of 10 km (6 miles or about 30,000 feet), it can fly a further distance of around 100 km (60 miles) before reaching the ground. This is usually a sufficient amount of time to land safely on the ground.
Fortunately, it rarely happens, but when it does, pilots are trained properly on how to handle a particular aircraft without any engine work. You may remember one of the most famous emergency landings when Captain managed to land his Airbus A320 over the New York’s Hudson River. Fortunately, all 155 persons survived and the whole story was illustrated in the film „Sully“, starring Tom Hanks.