Author Archives: Jeff Price

Too Hot To Take Off?

You may or may not know that I am also a pilot. I began flying while still in college as I pursued my degree in Professional Pilot. So when a reporter contacted me for a story to ask a question about something she overheard while boarding a plane, I was happy to respond. A gate agent had made a request for 12 volunteers to change flights “because with the heat, they need less weight on the plane.” She inquired about why this happens and if altitude had any impact on flight performance.

The simple answer is that as heat rises, aircraft performance diminishes. Hot air is less dense than cold air, resulting in reduced engine performance and longer takeoff distances. Some takeoff distances may be reduced by so much it is no longer safe for that type of aircraft to attempt a takeoff as it may run off the end of the runway.

The solution is to either wait until the weather cools off or reduce weight. Lowering the airplane weight reduces the takeoff distance, offsetting the hot air issue.

Altitude also affects performance. At higher altitudes (like Colorado where I live) the air is less dense, which means the air particles are further apart. Think of it this way, dense air is like biting into a steak. In lighter air, it is like biting into whipped cream. There is just not as much substance there for the wings to chew on.

Humidity also affects aircraft performance. As humidity increases, the air density decreases. One of the worst conditions for an aircraft take off is a hot and humid day at high altitude. Many airplane crashes that occur in Colorado happen when out-of-state pilots fly here and do not account for the combination of these 3 factors.

Pilots are supposed to perform aircraft performance calculations prior to departure which considers the weight of the aircraft, the altitude, the temperature and humidity. These are compares to the available runway length. If there is not enough runway to take off under the existing weather conditions, the most common solution is to reduce the weight of the airplane by removing passengers, baggage, cargo or in some cases, fuel, provided there is still enough fuel left for the flight and the required safety margins.

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If you want to fly, you’ve got to pay the freight

  Do you think it was a good thing that Captain Chesley Sullenberger had a flight plan on that day he landed US Airways Flight 1549 on the Hudson River? Obviously, the flight plan did not call for an encounter with a flock of geese, nor a water landing but the fact that the good… Continue Reading

Domestic terrorism, drones, and the decline of Western Democracy

Domestic terrorism is clearly on the rise. According to the Center for Strategic and International Studies[1], as of 2020, right-wing groups and individuals comprise the majority of domestic terrorism incidents, particularly between 2014 and 2020. The assault on the U.S. Capitol seems to be the watershed moment when everyone is now paying attention and demanding… Continue Reading

Two Decades After 9/11 – What Have We Learned?

Two Decades After 9/11 – What Have We Learned?

Just a couple of years ago, at an industry conference, an individual in their early 20s stood up during a panel session and asked what the big deal was about 9/11 and why we have all these security measures. As if the death of 2,977 people in the worst attack the U.S. has ever seen… Continue Reading

Richard Branson is bringing spaceflight back, but with it comes challenges to US airports

Richard Branson is bringing spaceflight back, but with it comes challenges to US airports

“Watch this,” I told my two boys who were up with me on Sunday morning, July 11th, as Richard Branson took off for his historic spaceflight. “You are about to see history being made.”  Branson’s flight to the US recognized Karmin line (i.e., edge of space) represents where I thought our country would be by… Continue Reading

Mask it or Casket

Mask it or Casket

Somehow, TSA has tasked their personnel and those individuals working at airports with mask enforcement duties. The FAA does not have a regulation for terminal buildings. The TSA regulations on terminal facilities focus on security, not on public health, so how this is enforced from a legal perspective is tenuous. Despite that fact, no matter… Continue Reading

How Can You Live at the Airport – Rent Free!

The recent story about an individual living at the Chicago O’Hare International Airport, apparently within the Security areas, is extraordinary. It is not that unusual to have homeless people, or others who are stranded in their travels, that live for a few days at the airport, but it is rare for that to occur in… Continue Reading