Why planes can’t fly in very hot weather

A SUMMER heat wave is a welcome arrival for vacationers – but it may not be good news if you plan to fly.

A pilot has revealed that hot weather can cause flights to be canceled in extreme cases.


A pilot explained how extreme heat can impact the air pressure needed for a plane to take offCredit: Getty

All planes need “lift” to be able to fly – this is when planes use atmospheric pressure to stay aloft, balancing the force of gravity below, the pull from behind and the thrust force to propel the aircraft forward.

However, air density becomes much thinner in extreme heat conditions, making it much more difficult for planes to take off or land.

This means that it is the temperature both at your destination and at your originating location that can determine whether your flight goes ahead or is cancelled.

Captain John Cox told USA Today: “There is a maximum temperature listed – if the temperature exceeds this reading, the flight cannot take off.”

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He continued: “At very high temperatures, the amount of payload an aircraft can carry can be limited.

“Unloading cargo and/or passengers is sometimes necessary because the hot air is not as dense, reducing the lift available.”

Fortunately, aircraft can operate at high temperatures starting at around 43°C.

However, in 2017, more than 40 flights were canceled in Phoenix, Arizona after temperatures reached 48°C.

Aircraft must also tackle the problem of extreme heat that impacts an aircraft’s complex machinery.

At high temperatures, an on-board air conditioning system could fail, making travel very uncomfortable for passengers.

The most extreme negative effects of this would result in passengers being severely dehydrated or suffering from other heat-related illnesses.

Pilots must also constantly monitor the aircraft’s engine and its temperature.

Regardless of extreme heat conditions, the take-off portion of any flight takes place when the engines are at their hottest and operating at maximum capacity to create more thrust and get the aircraft airborne.

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Plane delays are also more likely to happen in the summer – here’s why.

And we told you why you should never fly after noon on vacation.


“Plane on the tarmac, taking off. Rare shot very close to the plane.Credit: Getty

Add to that extreme heat conditions and lower air density, then the motors have to work even harder and risk overheating.

Pilots work hard to track engine temperatures by calculating both external and internal temperatures and adjusting engine usage accordingly – however, this can impact engine speed and functionality.

About Jefferey G. Cannon

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