How the heat wave affects our airports.
It’s not that planes can’t take off in hot weather, it just becomes more difficult. The heat causes planes to work much harder, and this leads to a ride that might not be very smooth. As the temperatures rise, the air becomes less dense, or, “thinner.” Due to this, planes need more speed to take off, and to reach higher speeds, the planes require more runway to build up for takeoff. However, Sky Harbor says its runways can “accommodate planes taking off in the hot weather,” so those taking off from Phoenix in this heat wave may not have to worry about delays. Airlines ultimately make the final decision on whether or not to take off or land.
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Planes were held from taking off and landing at Sky Harbor in 1990 when Phoenix set a record high of 122 degrees, and this week’s weather is threatening to break that record. Although many airlines have updated plane performance and manufacturing since 1990 so that planes can fly in this heat, flights are still delayed and many small planes, such as regional jets, do not take off in weather from 117 degrees and higher.