: to glide in or as if in an airplane
"With uncanny calm, Fauchard switched off his engine as if he were preparing to volplane to the ground in an unpowered landing." — Clive Cussler, Lost City, 2004
"[Roadrunners] can run at sustained speeds of up to 19 mph for considerable distances, and usually only make short flights in order to escape danger or flush prey. Very rarely one might be seen volplaning, or gliding downward with wings extended, from a ridgetop or other high perch." — Marcy Scott, The Las Cruces (New Mexico) Sun-News, 13 Nov. 2016
Did You Know?
Vol plané (meaning "gliding flight") was a phrase used by 19th-century French ornithologists to describe downward flight by birds; it contrasted with vol à voile ("soaring flight"). Around the time Orville and Wilbur Wright were promoting their latest "aeroplane" in France, the noun and the verb volplane soared to popularity in America as terms describing the daring dives by aviators. Fly Magazine reported in 1910, "The French flyers are noted for their thrilling spirals and vol planes from the sky." The avian-to-aviator generalization was fitting, since the Wright brothers had studied the flight of birds in designing their planes.
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