Category Archives: Aviation Career

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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Who Should You Believe?

“The worst vice is advice,” Al Pacino in the movie, The Devil’s Advocate. For years, there was a rumor circulating around the United Airlines hiring process that pilot applicants, (if they were from out of town and staying in the designated hotel) could never be seen out of their hotel room unless they were in… Continue Reading

What is worthy of your best efforts?

“Aren’t there some jobs where it doesn’t matter if you’re there or not?” This was a question posed by a student the other day. It came during a discussion when I was encouraging my students to make a difference at every job they are at. My answer: yes, in fact every job is that way… Continue Reading

15th Annual AAAE/DHS/TSA Aviation Security Summit, Part III

The big issue this year continues to be the insider threat / employee security. Legislative staffers visited with industry leadership at the Summit about the various laws attempting to make their way through the House or the Senate, directed at improving airport security. A significant piece of legislation to keep an eye on is H.R.3102… Continue Reading

15th Annual AAAE/DHS/TSA Aviation Security Summit, Part II

Although the airport security industry missed out on meeting TSA Administrator Neffenger, the annual security summit did provide some updates on other programs: ● Status of Rapback: Rapback is a criminal vetting process that automatically resubmits aviation worker fingerprints to determine if an individual who already has an airport identification badge, has subsequently been arrested… Continue Reading