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John O | July 2017

Pilot explains why high temperatures ground planes in Southwest


National news recently showed photos of airplanes grounded in cities like Phoenix, Ariz. because of temperatures that were soaring above 120 degrees and of course those missed flights posed huge headaches to passengers looking to make a business trip, head out on vacation, or simply fly home.

 


Planes were grounded recently in Arizona due to soaring temperatures. (Wikimedia Commons)

 

What is it that keeps planes on the tarmac when temperatures reach certain levels?

 

Business Insider recently ran a feature written by commercial airline pilot Patrick Smith that gave insights into what high temperatures could mean to a plane.

 

Smith explained that heat can impact a plane’s aerodynamics, producing less lift on the wing and reducing engine output. He wrote, “Jet engines don’t like low-density air either, and don’t perform as well in hot weather. Together, this means higher takeoff and landing speeds.”

 

This also requires longer runways and poses safety issues if there was an engine failure.

 

Of course, there is also the straightforward impact on the engines, which have max operating temperatures. Smith even noted that when temperatures reach a certain point there is no data for the pilots and crew to examine prior to take-off.

 

He added, “Then you’ve got the simpler, more tangible effects: overheating electronics, increased brake temperatures, cabin cooling issues, and so on. Airplanes have a lot of internal machinery, and much of it runs hot to begin with. Throw in triple-digit temperatures, and things begin to break down. And let’s not forget the effects on ground support equipment and, of course, the people working outside.”

 

Smith concluded, “Restrictions will vary with the temperature, runway length, and other factors. Outright grounding of flights is rare, but at a certain point there isn’t much choice.”

 

Read the full article at http://www.businessinsider.com/airline-pilot-explain-why-plane-cant-fly-extreme-heat-2017-7.

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