Why Planes Don’t Fly in Extreme Heat

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“Flight 503 has been canceled. We apologize for the inconvenience.” That might come as a shocker when you’re
sitting in the departure lounge looking at the gorgeous bright sunny weather outside. If there’s not a raincloud or snowstorm
in sight, then what gives? Oh yeah, planes can’t fly in extreme heat! In the summer of 2017, 50 flights were canceled
(plus 7 that were only delayed) at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. The reason: temperatures were a brain-melting
120°F! Truth be told, that crazy Arizona heat didn’t
affect larger planes like Boeing 747s or Airbus A320s, which can still take off even when
it’s 126°F out. Yet, in the age of super advanced technology,
it seems weird that air travel can be interrupted by an unusually hot day. The reason why smaller jets like Bombardiers
can’t take the heat when it goes over 118 °F is actually in the nature of flight itself! Before every departure, pilots get detailed
information on the air temperature, humidity, elevation, runway length, and other important
things. The system processes this data to calculate
optimal take-off speed, thrust, and so on. However, it’s impossible to calculate that
data beyond certain limits. One of such limits is an extremely hot temperature. Now, to understand that, you have to know
what makes planes fly in the first place. Spoiler alert: it’s not magical fairy dust! It’s the ability to generate enough lift. If there’s no lift, a plane won’t be able
to take off and stay up in the air. So, where does this lift come from? It all has to do with wings and how they’re
designed to redirect the movement of air. The wings collide with air particles and push
them down. But those stubborn little air molecules resist
that forced redirection and go right back up. Since the air particles are resisting that
change, the pressure on the underside of the wing is higher. Over the top of the wing, the pressure remains
low. This difference in pressure creates the lift,
and it pushes the plane into the sky. For the plane to stay afloat, it’s crucial
that the pressure under the wing remains high. When the conditions are right, there should
be no problem not only creating lift but also maintaining it. When something isn’t right in that formula,
a plane will hardly take off. You’d think that heat or humidity is directly
to blame here, but it’s more about air density. The atmosphere gets thinner the higher up
you go. Here “thinner” simply means that the air
molecules are further apart from each other. If you don’t have as many air molecules
pushing up on the wing, it becomes harder for the plane to generate enough lift. Now you can appreciate those engines that
much more: they work hard to keep the plane in the air and you moving from A to B! Ok, so what about all this talk of “planes
can’t fly in extreme heat”? Well, hot weather has the same effect on air
as higher altitudes do. That is, the higher the temperature, the less
dense the air is. The wings then have almost nothing to push
and produce lift from. In this case, the plane would need to move
much faster to be able to get that lift it needs to take off. The problem with that is, you only have so
much runway to work with! To minimize the risk of that dangerous situation
happening, the plane needs more of everything that it takes in normal conditions: more engine
power, more thrust, larger wings, more speed, and a longer runway. Because the plane’s climb performance is
so much lower, it can only lift a smaller number of passengers and cargo. The temperature outside, airport elevation,
and runway length are the three factors that affect how reduced this amount will be. For some planes, mostly smaller ones, it gets
to the point where it not only has to be reduced, but the flight must be rescheduled because
it’d be too dangerous for it to even try to take off. Lower air density is the main problem in extremely
hot weather, but it’s not the only one. Aircraft components like onboard electronics
overheat, seals can get too soft or melt, brake temperatures increase during landings,
there can be cabin cooling issues – a lot of things can break down in crazy hot temperatures. And don’t forget that it takes people to
service the aircraft and the airport. Many of them work outside, and the heat affects
them directly, making working conditions unbearable. Phoenix Sky Harbor is, of course, not the
only airport where high temperatures have messed up the schedule and passengers’ plans. In 2013, during a heatwave in the UK, many
travelers had to be bumped from their booked flights to make the planes’ burdens easier. It happened at London City Airport, where
the runways are shorter than at other nearby airports. Leaving a few passengers on the ground is
one of the possible solutions when the plane just has to take off no matter how hot it
is outside. Reducing cargo or flying with a less-than-full
fuel tank (they can always refuel somewhere cooler later) are other possible options . In some places around the world, the heat
isn’t a temporary inconvenience but a permanent situation people have to work with. The Middle East, for example, is home to one
of the most important transportation hubs in the world: Dubai International Airport. Many flights going to and from this and other
Gulf airports are scheduled for night and early morning when it gets somewhat cooler. Local carriers also normally work with larger
planes that can withstand the high temperatures. It’s now clear why some aircraft can’t
take off in crazy heat, but what about the cold? Is there such a thing as too cold to fly? Well, if anything, aircraft prefer when it’s
chilly. After all, they’re designed to cruise at
35,000 feet, and such altitudes are known for their teeth-chattering temperatures of
around -60°F. So technically, extreme cold isn’t an issue in the air, but it can make
the ground preparation for the flight longer and more complicated. You have to de-ice the runway and even the
plane itself! And when it passes the point of too cold for
aviation, the refueling equipment can just freeze. Hmm, looks like airplanes have their limits
too. Hey, that reminds me, do you prefer the cold,
heat, or somewhere in between? Let me know down in the comments! Anyway, as we continue to explore the limitations
of aviation nowadays, I can’t help but wonder if it can ever be too windy to fly? Going through a storm can be a scary experience
for passengers, but is it really as dangerous as it seems? Eh, it depends. A plane is unlikely to start wigging out just
because it’s going through some turbulence. Aviation engineers and manufacturers test
their aircraft and specify limits for the ground-, air-, and cross speeds. That way, pilots know exactly how they should
move in different weather conditions. However, the most critical and possibly unpredictable
moments during gales are take-offs and landings. At some airports, the winds are quite severe
all year round, so landing can get too wobbly for comfort. It’s risky alright, and it requires a real
pro of a pilot to land during a “wingstrike.” That’s when the wing hits the runway. It can happen when the wind unexpectedly changes
speed and direction, something called a “wind shear”. And a pilot must know what they’re doing
to land when a headwind turns into a tailwind, for example. A lot depends on a pilot’s skills when it
seems to be too wet to fly as well. Heavy rain is mostly a problem when it comes
to landing. Runways are designed in such a way so that
water doesn’t remain standing on them. However, if that happens, pilots have to adjust
landing speed and distance depending on how much water is on the ground. Hydroplaning is the riskiest situation that
can happen in wet weather. You see, if enough water gets between the
plane’s tire and the runway, it’ll reduce the friction needed there to bring the aircraft
to a stop. Then the pilot has to deal with skidding. If you thought it’s difficult enough in
your car, imagine losing control of a jumbo jet! Fortunately, such cases are rare! And who knows? Maybe in the future airplanes will be able
to safely take off, fly, and land in extreme heat, cold, wind, and rain. Granted, we still have to bow down to the
laws of physics, but I’m sure aviation engineers are hard at work making improvements and innovations! I’m still waiting for teleportation to come
around so that I don’t have to deal with another canceled or delayed flight ever again! For now, I’ll just keep dreaming… Hey, if you learned something new today, then
give the video a like and share it with a friend! And here are some other cool videos I think
you’ll enjoy. Just click to the left or right, and stay
on the Bright Side of life!

 

32 Responses

  1. ecclestonsangel

    November 5, 2019 4:32 pm

    Narrator: Bomb-bar-dee-yay. Me(cringing): no, actually, everyone, including the company, pronounces it Bomb-ba-deer. Nothing too fancy. Actually, now it's called Airbus.

    Reply
  2. Swiss 008

    November 5, 2019 8:35 pm

    Bright Side: Why Planes don‘t fly in extreme heat..
    Dubai: We have now 45 Degrees (Celsius), Planes are still flying…

    Reply
  3. George Spettigue

    November 5, 2019 10:28 pm

    BRIGHT SIDE – As a retired airline pilot, you got the basic concepts right, but placed the emphasis in the wrong place.  The primary effect of increased heat is decreased engine performance.  Additionally, airlines, and therefore their pilots, are not allowed to extrapolate performance charts beyond what the manufacturer has provided.  Example:  Several years ago, Alaska experienced extremely high air pressure, meaning that the air was more dense, improving performance, but because the charts did not include that level of high barometric air pressure, the airlines were forced by regulation to cancel flights until that area of extremely high pressure moved on or reduced its pressure!  Thanks for your efforts at explaining our problems to the non-pilot!

    Reply
  4. George Spettigue

    November 5, 2019 10:41 pm

    BRIGHT SIDE – Just a follow on to my previous post regarding aircraft performance,  without getting into the weeds and discussing all of the variables that the pilot and his dispatcher have to take into account.  Basically, the only item that is variable is the weight of the aircraft, therefore based on the conditions extant at the time of take off (or landing), the weight of the aircraft must be reduced to permit its performance to meet the regulatory requirements, all of which are based upon safety, including an engine failure at the most critical time of the take off (or of a go around, in the case of a landing)!  Remember that the secret of a long and successful aviation career can be summed up in 3 words:  "DON'T HIT NUTHIN' !

    Reply
  5. ajr993

    November 6, 2019 5:17 am

    I don't really get why this channel is so popular. This guy sounds condescending; like he's talking to a small child or someone with mental retardation.He takes forever to get started, really over simplifies things, and makes some very lame jokes as well.

    Reply
  6. Randy Smith

    November 6, 2019 5:46 am

    Caution this poster has their mind set on creating lies about airplanes. Do your own investigation before believing .

    Reply
  7. Robert Heinkel

    November 7, 2019 1:34 am

    After 24 years in the USAF, as a crew chief, flying everywhere around the globe, we never cancelled a flight due to heat. Flying in extreme heat might limit the cargo/fuel carrying capacity.

    Reply
  8. Arslan Shaik

    November 7, 2019 7:14 pm

    8:10 Great Video I learnt some airplanes can have engines backwards. Thank you for this precious information.❤

    Reply
  9. Jesper Frøtlund

    November 7, 2019 10:18 pm

    Correction: Planes fly due to LOWER pressure on the TOP of the wing, rather than due to the higher pressure under the wing.
    80-90% of the total lift comes from the low pressure on the top, whereas only 10-20% of the total lift comes from under the wing !!!

    Reply
  10. Jeremy Miller

    November 8, 2019 10:23 am

    This is totally wrong. Wings don't "direct air down" they create high pressure under the wing and low pressure on top, when air is hot, the particles are further apart from each other and is harder to condense those particles under the wing to gain enough lift.

    Reply
  11. Yogesh Maniar

    November 9, 2019 4:23 pm

    Why am I watching this ? Planes still fly …..no matter what the weather is. They may crash, but who cares!
    Take this f…..g Dark Side guy when it crashes.

    Reply

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