Have hot air; will travel
Most of us have seen or heard about the flights being grounded this week at Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport, however, what about here in Page? Some of us would rather travel via plane to Phoenix, and then make a connecting flight rather than drive almost five hours to board a plane.
Well, you’re in luck. There are few times when flights in Page will be cancelled, so it is more likely you would get to Phoenix and have your flight cancelled there rather than here. But why exactly do flights get cancelled, and why does it change from place to place, airport to airport?
LPNN spoke with Alan, the Chief Pilot at American Aviation West, since we were curious how the heat affects the smaller planes and helicopters here in Page. Here is what we learned:
The planes at American Aviation West do not have flight restrictions, as long as all aircraft indicators are in operating range (green & no problems). However, people are not true machinery, and due to physiological issues that pilots and passengers can experience at American Aviation West, such as rapid dehydration, a policy has been recently implemented that grounds their flights at 110°F.
American Aviation West’s aircraft is different in build than most commercial airlines. Their aircraft engines are piston based, while most commercial aircraft is turbine based. This means there are different restrictions for the two engine types. What happens when the temperature rises is that the air gets thinner (less dense), and so like your vehicle going up a mountain with the air conditioner running, the engines of a plane have to work harder to move at a normal speed. This is where problems can happen. If there is not enough room or the air is not dense enough, it would take aircraft longer to get up to the speed necessary to take off; and if there isn’t enough runway, the plane will just keep going straight along the ground, right off the runway. For example, during the winter, depending on the aircraft, it can take between 1,200’ to 1,300’ to successfully take off. In weather above 105° F, it can take that same aircraft more than 3,000’ to successfully take off; talk about a workout!
The good news is, if you want to take a tour, you’re in luck, just as long as the temperature doesn’t hit 110° F. These pilots will be more than happy to show you around.
The small turbine powered planes, are limited to 106° F before operations cannot continue and are grounded. One thing these pilots have to keep in mind is that with the higher heat, it is equivalent to flying in even higher altitude and air density levels.
If you ever encounter a cancelled flight because of the heat, be thankful and grateful to the pilot for keeping your safety in mind.