Example sentence:

The plane went on a __ for a few minutes before crashing into the Pacific Ocean.

I thought the word was down dive or something like that. But a Google search told me that I was wrong.

What's the correct term to use here?

  • 2
    What the plane did would depend on the circumstances. It might glide, it might spiral down, it might plunge/dive or it might disintegrate/come apart. Commented May 7, 2017 at 11:59
  • @RonaldSole So, "the plane went into a dive before crashing"?
    – alex
    Commented May 7, 2017 at 12:00
  • 1
    A dive implies that the aircraft is heading (almost) vertically down. But an aircraft that runs out of fuel might well glide for a great distance before crashing. Tailspin * and *spiral are ways of describing an aircraft's behaviour as it descends - although it may recover rather than crashing. Commented May 7, 2017 at 12:05
  • If it took ten minutes it was probably not a dive or tailspin, unless the initial altitude was quite high.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented May 7, 2017 at 12:21
  • 1
    @HotLicks - it can be both..it just depends on the altitude.
    – user66974
    Commented May 7, 2017 at 12:28

1 Answer 1



  • [ C usually singular ] a situation in which a plane turns round and round as it falls quickly towards the ground.

(Cambridge Dictionary)

Go into a tailspin:

Lit. [for an airplane] to lose control and spin to the earth, nose first.

  • The plane shook and then suddenly went into a tailspin. The pilot was not able to bring the plane out of the tailspin, and it crashed into the sea.

(McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs

enter image description here From Life of Bon

Or nosedive: (verb)

(of an aircraft) make a nosedive.

  • ‘the plane nosedived into the ground and exploded’


A steep downward plunge by an aircraft.

  • ‘the pilot put the plane in a nosedive and ejecte


enter image description here From Pinterest

  • 1
    If it took ten minutes to crash it was almost certainly not a nosedive, and likely not a tailspin.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented May 7, 2017 at 12:19
  • 1
    @HotLicks - the time depends on the altitude the plane was flying.
    – user66974
    Commented May 7, 2017 at 12:26
  • 2
    @Josh a nosedive is too fast to take 10 minutes from any aircraft altitude. It would be faster than cruising speed, which is not far short of 600 mph, so in a sixth of an hour it would fall 100 miles. Above 62 miles is regarded as outside the atmosphere.
    – Chris H
    Commented May 7, 2017 at 12:36
  • Pan Am 103 that crashed over Lockerbie in Scotland on 21/12/1988, after a bomb exploded in the hold, is reported to have taken 36" to hit the ground. theguardian.com/uk/2000/feb/27/lockerbie.life1 Commented May 7, 2017 at 14:37

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