When is it too windy to fly commercial? It is a common question to ask, isn’t it?
Some ask it because of mind-boggling videos on the internet. Others ask because of the unpredictable weather conditions during their travel.
It is highly likely that you have pondered over the threshold at which wind speed can cause flight delays.
So, what is too windy to fly?
Commercial flights are generally considered unsafe to operate when horizontal winds exceed 40mph due to various factors at play.
Is It Safe to Fly in High Winds?
It usually is. In fact, incidents involving planes due to strong winds are extremely rare in today’s age of aviation.
In general, contemporary airplanes are engineered to endure and excel in strong winds.
Before obtaining their license, pilots must undergo extensive training to showcase their proficiency in navigating through challenging windy conditions.
Although rain rarely poses a problem for safe flying, even moderately strong winds are usually easy to handle.
Fact: Excessively windy conditions can have an impact on landing and takeoff because crosswinds make it challenging to control the aircraft.
Can Windy Conditions Ever Impact Flights?
Yes, they can.
There are occasions when powerful gusts of wind have the potential to impact flights, resulting in delays or turbulence throughout the duration of the trip.
Crosswinds can present difficulties when an aircraft is taking off or landing. Crosswinds refer to the winds that blow horizontally across the runway, at a right angle to the aircraft’s flight path.
In the event that the crosswind surpasses specific thresholds, it could pose challenges or jeopardize the ability of aircraft to effectively manage control throughout these crucial stages.
During such instances, flight schedules might experience delays until the wind conditions become calmer or alternative runways with more favorable wind patterns become accessible.
Should You Worry About Windy Conditions Before Flying?
It is true that flights can be affected by powerful winds in certain circumstances. But, the combination of various factors makes it a secure and smooth flight.
Some of these factors include:
- Advanced aviation technology
- Rigorous pilot training
- Reliable weather monitoring systems
It means you really do not have to worry about anything and know that the plane would not leave the runway if there are any risks involved.
When Is It Too Windy to Fly Commercial?
Determining the exact windspeed that leads to flight delays can be quite challenging.
It is mainly because it relies on a multitude of factors including:
- The aircraft’s type
- The length of the runway
- The wind’s direction and intensity
It means that you have to consider various factors. For instance, the size of the plane matters. But, again, when is it too windy to fly a small plane?
Well, that is when it comes down to the length of the runway as well as the speed of the wind.
When to Expect a Delayed Flight Due to Wind?
Actually, the only instances during a flight where flight delays can occur due to strong winds are take-off and landing.
Nearly every flight experiences strong winds at some stage while ascending or descending.
Taking this into consideration, crosswinds, commonly referred to as horizontal winds, that exceed 34-40 mph typically prevent the possibility of initiating or concluding a flight.
Ultimately, the air traffic controller has to decide here.
But, in the event of turbulent crosswinds during a landing attempt, the pilot might opt to cancel the scheduled landing, occasionally with minimal notice.
Fact: You are less likely to face issues when flying because the authorities use anemometers and windsocks to measure wind speed at airports.
What are Wind Limitations to Fly Commercial?
In the field of aviation, the measurement of speed is denoted in Knots, which represents the velocity in Nautical Miles Per Hour (NM/h).
To convert it to Miles Per Hour (mph), simply multiply it by 1.15.
Aircraft have various limitations during take-off and landing, which are further categorized as dry, wet, or contaminated runway restrictions.
Fact: A runway is considered contaminated when there is snow, ice, or standing water present on its surface.
Maximum Wind Limits for Aircraft
Aircraft prefer to depart and arrive with a headwind as it decreases the amount of runway needed for takeoff or landing.
In the scenario where an airplane is stationary on the runway, and there is a headwind of at least 20kts, the air flowing over the wing amounts to 20kts.
Consequently, the aircraft registers an airspeed of 20kts, despite its lack of movement.
Take Off Limitations
When the runway is not wet, the Boeing 737-800 can tolerate a maximum crosswind component of around 33 knots.
When it comes to departing from a damp runway, the recommended speed is approximately 27 knots.
The precise number could potentially be slightly higher or lower due to the airline’s discretion to establish a more stringent threshold if desired.
In the event that the cross-wind component exceeded this value, the aircraft could potentially consider selecting an alternative runway that aligns more with the direction of the wind.
However, in the scenario of an airport with only one runway, it would not have the capability to take off.
Most commercial aircraft do not have a specific headwind limitation for take-off, meaning there is no absolute maximum limit for take-off or landing.
In theory, the aircraft would not face any restrictions in taking off if there were a headwind component of 100mph.
Nevertheless, it is a fact that there exist specific wind thresholds for the commencement and conclusion of aircraft door operations (approximately 45 knots).
Under no circumstances would any pilots endeavor to maneuver or take off under such circumstances.
In such circumstances, the airport would have inevitably shut down!
The Impact of Upper-Level Winds vs Lower-Level Winds
The flight delays caused by wind speed vary depending on whether it is at ground level or in the upper levels of the atmosphere.
Although take-off and landing can be influenced by powerful winds at lower altitudes, high-altitude winds, such as the jet stream, can improve the speed and effectiveness of flights.
The Jet Stream Impact
The jet stream is a rapid-moving air current at high altitudes that travels in an eastward direction from the west.
When airplanes travel in alignment with the jet stream, they can take advantage of tailwinds.
Tailwinds propel the aircraft in a forward direction, effectively augmenting its speed over the ground.
This enables aircraft to travel greater distances within a reduced timeframe, leading to expedited flights.
When traveling from the United States to Europe, airplanes frequently experience tailwinds within the jet stream.
The tailwinds have the potential to be powerful and steady, reducing travel time by a considerable amount.
An Important Consideration
At specific periods throughout the year, jet streams have the ability to decrease the length of long-distance flights by over 60 minutes.
Airlines and pilots leverage this inherent advantage to enhance efficiency and decrease fuel usage.
Fact: It is important to mention that the jet stream can pose difficulties when traveling in the opposite direction.
Can High Winds and Storms Affect Air Travel?
Here it is: the aircraft is specifically engineered to endure encounters with lightning strikes.
Actually, when it comes to disembarking the aircraft, you face a greater risk than encountering a mid-air strike.
Planes are meticulously engineered with each metal component interconnected.
This enables the smooth flow of electricity and its safe release through specialized “static discharge” devices located on the wings and tail.
Aircraft being struck by lightning is an extremely uncommon occurrence.
Nevertheless, a few aviators have encountered this occurrence and have characterized it as an “unremarkable incident.”
Essentially, as a traveler, you might not perceive anything whatsoever! You might perceive a faint sound and witness a vivid burst of light.
Always keep in mind, you are never at risk.
An Important Consideration
While flying, it is highly unlikely for an aircraft to encounter lightning storms in close proximity.
Ground radar and aircraft radar have the capability to identify these storms, prompting pilots to swiftly maneuver and avoid any potential danger.
When is it too windy to fly commercial? Determining the point at which flying commercially becomes unsafe due to high winds necessitates a thorough evaluation of multiple variables.
Although wind can present obstacles to flight operations, the aviation sector has implemented guidelines and restrictions to minimize potential risks.
It means commercial airlines have the ability to make well-informed choices to postpone or redirect flights in situations where wind speeds surpass acceptable thresholds.