What Happens to Aircraft at Extreme Heat Condition?
It comes as no surprise that inclement weather such as gusting wind, harsh rain, and lightning can be a major hindrance to the performance of aircraft. However, extreme heat can be just as detrimental. If the temperature is too high, commercial airlines are required to ground flights for safety reasons. While it doesn’t happen too frequently, it is a problem that airlines and passengers alike will face from time to time.
That is because there is a maximum operating temperature controller of aircraft of all types and manufacturers. For example, Bombardier jets are designed for use in temperatures no greater than 118 degrees Fahrenheit while Airbus and Boeing aircraft are capable of operation in temperatures up to 126 degrees fahrenheit. Exposure to temperatures higher than these can put the aircraft and all those aboard at risk.
On the surface, heat seems more like a minor inconvenience than an actual flight hazard. After all, there is no water or ice to make its way into the engine, and the plane is not in danger of being struck by lightning. However, the problems caused by heat affect the most basic property of flight - lift. Aircraft take flight by using their wings to produce lift. The air that flows underneath the wings is what lifts the aircraft. Air expands in extreme temperatures and becomes less dense, meaning there is essentially less air to flow under the wings and produce lift.
While it is rare to see flights grounded due to extreme heat, it has happened in the past. In 2017, Phoenix, Arizona saw record heats in excess of 120 degrees fahrenheit during their long summer. Many airlines were forced to delay flights as a result. Cool, dense air is ideal for flight, but as long as the temperature is beneath your aircraft’s maximum operating capabilities, you’ll be A-okay.
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