Weather Wise Kids: Too Hot to Fly

Question:  Trent, 10, wants to know how can it be too hot to fly?

Answer:  Well, Trent, it’s hot our west.  Really hot.  With temperatures topping 120 degrees in Arizona, it’s simply too hot to fly.

So yes, it’s true.  And it’s true for a few reasons.

For one, the hot air just isn’t great for a plane… the internal components… the stress on the engine.

But the main reason simply comes down to basic physics.  Hot air makes it harder for the plane to get off the ground at all.  An airplane’s wing is designed in such a way that lower pressure is created as air flows over the top of the wing, and higher pressure is found beneath the wing.  This difference creates lift.  If you don’t have this difference, there’s no lift for take off.

Hot air is less dense than cold air.  Hot air is thinner.  To fly in hot air, you need more engine power.  You need more speed and a longer a runway to get to a faster speed.

The reality is that planes can handle cold air a whole lot better than they can deal with hot air.  As long as the inside of the plane is kept warm enough, planes can take off and land in temperatures as low as 67 degrees BELOW zero!

So off to the Arctic Circle?  No problem.

Fly out of Phoenix?  A heat wave could keep you grounded.

And a little more trivia…  Larger jets like Airbus and Boeing can fly with temperatures up to 127 degrees.  But…  there’s always a concern for ALL planes any time it gets hotter than 104 degrees.







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