Loiter (aeronautics)

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In aeronautics and aviation, loiter is a phase of flight. The phase consists of cruising for a certain amount of time over a small region. The loiter phase occurs, for general aviation, generally at the end of the flight plan, normally when the plane is waiting for clearance to land. However, some aircraft used for special purposes, like aerial reconnaissance or ground-attack aircraft, may have a loiter phase in mid-flight.

In astronautics, the loiter phase of spacecraft used for human spaceflight may be as long as six months, as is the case for Soyuz spacecraft which remain docked while expedition crewmembers reside aboard the International Space Station.


The endurance of the aircraft during the loiter phase is calculated using the following (Breguet formula):[1]

 E = \frac{1}{C} \frac{L}{D} \ln \left( \frac{W_i}{W_f} \right)


  •  E \,\! is the endurance (dimensions of Time)
  •   C \,\! is the Specific Fuel Consumption (dimensions of 1/Time)
  •  L \,\! is the total lift force on the aircraft
  •  D \,\! is the total drag force on the aircraft
  •  W_i \,\! is the weight of the aircraft at the start of the phase
  •  W_f \,\! is the weight of the aircraft at the end of the phase


  1. ^ Obert, Ed (2009). Aerodynamic Design of Transport Aircraft. Delft: IOS Press. p. 638. ISBN 978-1-58603-970-7.