It’s not just people who are affected by bad weather. Planes often do not fly in rain and heavy snow. When it rains, airplanes do not take off from airports because of safety regulations. This article shares some insights into what happens when there is inclement weather for flying.
Planes are susceptible to the weather
There are a few different types of weather that can affect a plane’s ability to fly. One type is high winds. If the wind speeds are too high, the plane may not be able to take off or land safely.
Another type of bad weather is fog. If there is too much fog, the pilot may not be able to see the runway or any other obstacles in their path.
Finally, flying in thunderstorms can be dangerous for planes. The lightning and heavy rain can cause the plane to experience issues.
Do planes still fly in the rain?
In the majority of cases, rain doesn’t affect a flight too badly. However, if the rain is combined with strong winds these conditions can cause extra challenges to flight planning.
A combination of strong winds and heavy rain can even cause a change of route or a delay if the conditions are extreme. On the whole, airplanes are well-equipped to deal with bad weather conditions.
Essentially, visibility is crucial when it comes to heavy rain. While cruising at higher speeds, rainwater is removed from the plane’s windshield by the airflow. That being said, pilots still need a clear view at slower speeds, such as when landing or taxiing the plane on the ground.
Weather can affect a plane’s ability to take off or land
Since planes use air currents to generate lift and fly, they need to be able to deal with inclement weather. If there are extremely heavy winds, rainstorms, or even snowstorms that are affecting where the plane is trying to take off from, this could cause delays. This can also happen with other conditions such as sandstorms if they are happening in the same area that planes need to take off from.
When landing, a plane needs to be able to slow down, and weather can make that difficult. A plane’s tires need at least 5000 feet of runway for stopping, but if there is standing water, snow, or ice on the ground then that distance could be affected.
Snow is less of an issue for planes once they are in the air, as they have de-icing equipment installed. Freezing rain however can lead to a rapid build-up of ice that can overwhelm the equipment. A build-up of ice on the wings of a plane can be particularly dangerous.
Stormy weather can also cause visibility problems for pilots as they approach an airport which can make it more dangerous for planes to land. Planes can be less stable during stormy conditions which makes them more susceptible to issues.
Although the risk of being struck by lightning is low, planes are designed to sustain being struck. When it does strike, lightning typically hits a protruding part of the plane like the nose or tip.
The flash of lightning then chooses the path of least resistance and travels along the body. The fuselage acts like a Faraday cage and this protects the inside of the plane whole allowing the voltage to move across the outside of the plane.
Weather can also affect a plane’s speed and altitude
Weather can affect a plane’s speed and altitude. When it is cloudy or foggy, a plane has to fly at a lower altitude because it is harder to see.
This can affect the plane’s speed because it takes longer to get to the destination. Most commercial planes are equipped with autopilots that can land a plane in zero visibility, but if the fog is particularly dense, it can be more difficult for the planes to taxi as this is a manual process.
Similarly, wind can also affect a plane’s altitude. A strong wind can push a plane off course, and it can also make it difficult for the plane to stay at a high altitude.
Put simply, strong winds slow down the groundspeed of landing aircraft. Although this isn’t a problem for pilots and the aircraft, it can cause issues for Air Traffic Control. As the aircraft are forced to move over the ground more slowly, fewer planes can land each hour.
So, do planes fly in heavy rain?
While planes can still fly on rainy days, the weather can lead to delays when taking off or landing. These delays are often caused by low visibility and strong winds, which make it difficult for pilots to navigate their way around the airport. By understanding the effects of severe weather on airplane travel, passengers can be better prepared for potential delays to their flight.