This paper demonstrates the usefulness of treating subsonic Fanno flow (adiabatic flow, with friction, of a perfect gas in a constant-area pipe) as a polytropic process. It is shown that the polytropic model allows an explicit equation for mass flow rate to be developed. The concept of the energy transfer ratio is used to develop a close approximation to the polytropic index. Explicit equations for mass flow rate and net expansion factor in terms of upstream properties and pressure ratio are developed for Fanno and isothermal flows. An approximation for choked flow is also presented. The deviation of the results of this polytropic approximation from the values obtained from a traditional gas dynamics analysis of subsonic Fanno flow is quantified and discussed, and a typical design engineering problem is analyzed using the new method.