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Home > Fear of Flying > Feeling the plane is falling out of the sky
Feeling the plane is falling out of the sky
Flying - Fear of Flying
Monday, 18 March 2013 14:45

Airbus A340 Descending into Melbourne

Dear Capt Lim,

Why does it feels like the plane is falling out of the sky on a descent?

I feel like I'm dropping straight down while in my seat.

Any suggestions for the discomfort?


Hi Mike,

During the descent, a plane loses between 500 to 2500 feet minute but she is fully under the control of the pilot during this time. A seasoned flyer may not even feel it as the actual cabin rate of descent is much lower than that.

However some passengers feel the effect more than the others. If you have a sensitive stomach and a first timer, the sinking feeling can be uncomfortable.

Physically, during the descent, when your body is accelerated vertically, each part is accelerated individually. However the seat is supporting you against the force and your back muscle pushes against the various organs. Hence every organ is being pushed around inside against each other because of the force of gravity.

But during a descent, there is a feeling of ‘free fall’ where the force acting on your body is reduced and the various organs pushing each other is less. They appear ‘weightless’, each falling individually in the body. That’s gives you the funny feeling as your stomach is suddenly very light due to less force pushing on it. This is similar to you driving downhill in your car.

There isn’t much you can do about it regarding the discomfort of this feeling except to understand the cause of the sensation. You will get used to this after a while.

In fact, I used to get motion sickness when I started flying many years ago but I have got used to it now. Read this article here.

PS. To check for any latest updates or postings, you can follow my new Twitter at @CaptKHLim

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