Aircraft Safety In Summer & Hot Weather
As we look over temperatures across the country, there is only one “not too hot” spot in northern Michigan. Just as flying into instrument conditions can be dangerous if you are not qualified, flying over-grossed under blue skies and high temperatures can be just as bad. Sadly enough, we lost four wonderful clients and friends in a Bonanza in Utah several years ago during these summer conditions.
All of you know about density altitude, and how air gets thinner as it gets hotter, which in turns decreases the lift. All of this effects take off and landings. Larger aircraft are not immune to these conditions, but it is even worse for the smaller aircraft. Some of you may not know that even airlines re-route or cancel flights during very high temperatures. In areas where the temperatures remain very high most of the time, planes take off and land at night or early morning.
During very hot weather, major airlines take steps to reduce weight such as selling fewer seats and reducing fuel levels. Those of us who fly need to keep these same steps in mind. The same people who often fly with you during cooler weather may be too much on a very hot day. Try to stick to longer runways on hot days. A short runway and hot temps are a sure guarantee for problems. You should always conduct a weight and balance check if you feel that temperatures may be affecting the flight. Actually, pilots do not conduct weight and balance checks often enough. This is as important as checking fuel and oil. The four people above we lost were used to flying together all the time. They had already done weight and balance checks many times I am sure they did not anticipate problems with the takeoff of the Bonanza that day. However, the extreme temperatures changed previous calculations.
You need to be as close as possible to the actual weight of your passengers. Folks tend to lie about their weights so you need to learn to gauge well. After you have figured up the total weight, equally important is where to seat your passengers. The further the weight is from the CG, the more it effects the way the planes flies. If most of the weight is in the back, the plane will fly differently than if it were in the front. As the fuel is used up the plane will again begin to make changes in its flying characteristics.
Summer flying presents a variety of conditions that need special attention. Summer flights are more prevalent because of an abundance of blue skies (hopefully). However, non-instrument pilots need to be cautious as blue skies can quickly change during a flight. Wind can also be a factor. Even on a sunny day, winds can flare up and make for a very difficult flight and landing. Some areas have frequent thunderstorms that come and go on a regular basis without much notice. Enjoy the summer and fly safe.