Why Can’t Planes Take Off Or Fly When It’s Hot Outside?

It’s no secret that powerful winds and lighting can affect commercial flights. However, during thunderstorms, commercial airlines can also postpone their flights if the weather conditions are unfavorable.

When it comes to operating an aircraft, the maximum temperature that a plane can reach is determined by its manufacturer. For instance, the aircraft made by Boeing and Airbus can reach temperatures of around 126 degrees Fahrenheit.

Understanding the basic mechanics of airplanes is very important to understand why they can’t take off or land in extreme lift. The air beneath their wings lifts them up, which prevents them from falling to the ground.

Unfortunately, many flights were canceled due to the weather conditions. The main factor that caused the delays was the hot weather.

Aside from understanding how planes work, it also helps to know about the environmental factors that can affect their performance.

How Do Planes Take Off And Land?

One of the most common mistakes people make is trying to explain the concept of lift, which is mainly related to the plane’s wings. This is not the whole picture.

The flying of a plane is made possible through the principle of momentum. This concept states that the total force that an object exerts on it is equal to its rate of change.

Take a look at the movement of air molecules as they collide with the plane’s wings. As the plane’s wings hit these molecules, their momentum changes.

The force that the plane exerts on the molecules is equal to the force that the molecules exert on them. This means that the upward thrust of the wings is equal to the force that the molecules exert on them.

The lift that a plane gets from its body helps it fly fast. However, it also needs external thrust to counteract the aerodynamic drag that it encounters while flying.

What Effect Does Temperature Have On A Plane’s Flight?

High temperatures can affect the air density in a certain region. This is because the higher the temperature, the thinner the air is. Thin air now denotes the presence of fewer air molecules. This is a serious issue. Why?

In order to generate lift, an airplane needs a huge amount of air molecules. For an aircraft, which has around a hundred passengers, you need a huge amount of air molecules around it.

The more air molecules an airplane has, the more lift it can generate. This is why it is usually not advantageous to take off on hot days.

The lower the air density, the less efficient it is for the combustion of the fuel. This is a negative sign when it comes to taking off on a hot day.

  • A lack of lift is caused by a reduction in air density, or thin air.
  • Extreme heat and humidity have a negative impact on electronics and other gear.
  • It’s possible that air conditioning equipment won’t be able to keep up.
  • High temperatures mixed with low air density put the engines under double the strain, forcing them to work harder, especially during take-off.

Aside from air density, other factors such as temperature can also affect the performance of aircraft. In extremely hot weather, the air can become thin, which can make flying difficult. This issue is only going to get worse as global warming increases.

What Is The Problem With An Airport That Is “Hot And High”?

Due to the atmospheric conditions at some of the airports that are considered hot and high, it can be very challenging for pilots to fly safely.

The air density of an airport is known to decrease as the ambient temperature rises and the altitude increases. This reduction in air density can affect the plane’s structural components and the flight’s safety.

Due to the low service ceiling of helicopters and light planes, they often end up stalling in high and hot conditions. This causes them to lose control of their aircraft and increase their risks of crashing.

If a plane takes off at a high altitude, the conditions will severely affect its climb rate. If the plane can’t climb fast enough, it might crash into an obstacle.

In 2012, four passengers of a single-prop plane were killed when their aircraft crashed after taking off. The footage shows that the plane was not able to generate enough thrust to clear the trees lining the runway.

The high altitude and hot weather conditions at that time affected the plane’s lift. It was operating at an altitude that exceeded its maximum density altitude. The pilot was almost at the point where he decided to abort the takeoff.

Since the plane was not able to climb out of its original position, the pilot tried to land on an open field. Unfortunately, the plane collided with a tree near the end of the runway.

Thin Air

One of the main factors that prevent airplanes from flying in extremely hot weather is the thin air. This air tends to become thinner as it gets hotter.

Getting the lift to fly requires a certain amount of air to flow beneath the wings of an airplane. This air then exerts pressure on the plane to lift it up.

Pilots who try to take off in extreme heat can find themselves stuck on the runway. Also, the lack of lift can prevent them from safely landing.

If the air around the plane is too thin, it can’t lift properly, which could result in an accident.

The air around the plane gets too thin as temperatures start to reach high temperatures. This can lead to the cancellation of flights.

Since small planes are more vulnerable to the effects of high heat than bigger ones, they often have to carry larger wings to compensate for the lack of lift.

Due to the extreme weather conditions in certain regions, such as the Middle East, flights to these areas usually arrive late at night or in the morning.

Other Heat-Related Problems

Aside from the specialized consequences of exposure to extremely hot conditions, there are also other issues that can arise when dealing with complex machinery.

Most of the time, electronic equipment and machinery do not respond well to extremely hot or humid conditions. This could result in them being unable to fly safely.

Onboard cooling systems can also break down, which could prevent planes from taking off or landing. However, this issue is usually regarded as secondary to the main one.

Being in an enclosed car for long periods in extremely hot conditions can lead to fatal injuries. There have been cases where pets and children were killed after being locked inside a car.

A hot plane can also cause uncomfortable conditions inside the cabin. While air exchange occurs during flights, heat can still get trapped inside the structure.

Engine Problems

Airplane engines can’t handle the high temperatures that have been observed in certain places like Dubai and Phoenix.

If the temperature gets too high, it can cause damage to the aircraft’s engine. During takeoff, the increased thrust from the engines can lead to higher internal temperatures.

To prevent this from happening, pilots have to keep an eye on the temperature of the engines’ external components.

Related: Are Coffee Machines Allowed On A Flight? 

Solutions for Hot Weather

One of the most important factors that can improve a flight’s performance is reducing the overall load of the aircraft. This allows the plane to take off more easily on hot days. Since atmospheric conditions are unalterable, you need to have artificial solutions to help you overcome these challenges.

One technique that’s commonly used at airports with natural conditions is making the runways longer. This increases the distance between the plane and the runway, which provides more energy for the climb. Another technique involves reducing the weight of the aircraft by removing non-essential equipment.

Structural changes in an aircraft, such as the addition of powerful engines, can help improve the take-off and landing conditions. Other techniques such as the use of high-lift devices can also help. When it comes to improving the flight experience, it’s important to take note of the weather conditions that are out of the ordinary.

It’s no surprise that airlines have been working on finding ways to solve the various problems that arise when dealing with the hot weather. Pilots are known to use computers to keep track of the temperature when their aircraft is running. Doing so can help them maintain the ideal operating conditions.

The onboard computers can also inform the crew about the temperature changes as they travel farther into danger zones. These devices can help prevent overheating issues. Modern weather reports can also help airlines schedule their flights in areas with extremely hot temperatures.

They also check the size of the planes they allow to fly into these areas. Having the right aircraft allows them to avoid experiencing overheating issues. Having fewer passengers on board can also help lower the overall weight of the aircraft. This can make flying in hot conditions easier since the cabin air is usually thinner.

Some airlines also restrict the amount of bags a passenger can bring on board due to the extreme heat. Although they are not as common as cold weather, flying in extremely hot conditions can still cause various problems. Fortunately, airlines have been working on addressing these issues for years.

Since these temperatures can leave people feeling hot, the pilots and flight control staff members who work in these areas try to avoid getting overheated.

Longer Runways Are Beneficial

There are a number of airports in different parts of the world that are referred to as high and hot airports. These facilities are usually located at high elevations.

If you’re planning on landing at an airport with a hot and high altitude, make sure that the runway has longer runways. Having longer runways will help boost your momentum.

On a recent flight, I felt that the plane was running too long on the runway. After I checked it out, I realized that the runway was longer than usual. After further investigation, I discovered that the airport I was flying from was a hot and high one.


Fortunately, no one was killed in the crash. However, it serves as a grim reminder of the effects of flying in hot and high altitudes.

As the Earth warms due to climate change, aircraft will continue to be grounded. Engineering firms will need to develop new technologies to keep up with the rising temperatures.

Due to the high temperatures, many commercial aircraft are forced to be temporarily ground. In 2017, for instance, during a hot summer in Phoenix, Arizona, flights were delayed due to the weather.

The main reason why planes can’t take off and fly in extreme heat is due to the lack of dense air. As the temperature rises, the air gets less dense, which makes it harder for airplanes to propel themselves.

James Newman

James Newman is an air travel fanatic. From the fear of flying, TSA regulations, and saving money on flights & airlines, James has extensive knowledge when it comes to air travel. He hopes to make your air travel experience a better one with his blog flyingcomfortably.com.

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