Scientists Think Flying Is Poised to Become a Pain

Up to a third of flights will be affected on hot days in coming decades, says study
By Gina Carey,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 14, 2017 11:22 AM CDT

(Newser) – Remember in June when it got too hot for planes to take off in Phoenix? A new study suggests stories like that will become quite common in the not-too-distant future. Via Reuters, the study published in Climatic Change estimates that rising temperatures could leave up to one-third of planes grounded during heat waves in the coming decades. The problem centers around the wings’ capacity for lift, which is lessened in warmer conditions. By 2100, worldwide average temperatures are expected to rise by 5.4 degrees Fahrenheit. To safely take off, airlines would need to make adjustments during the hottest part of the day, with 10% to 30% of planes affected. Full flights will either stay grounded until conditions cool down or lighten their loads by removing fuel, cargo, or passengers, per a release at EurekAlert. Think 12 to 13 people asked to leave a 160-person passenger plane.

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"Our results suggest that weight restriction may impose a non-trivial cost," one of the study’s lead authors says. Wired reports that among the airports studied, New York’s LaGuardia and Washington’s Reagan-National fared poorly because of short runways, as did Dubai International Airport, where extreme heat could force reduced loads up to 55% of the time during peak temperatures. Better news: New York's JFK wouldn't be much affected. Delayed departures won't be the only hassle. Scientists say severe turbulence would become more common. “I’ve yet to see a benefit of climate change to aviation,” says atmospheric scientist Paul Williams, who believes it’s high time for the airline industry to prepare and adapt. (An essay at New York provided a decidedly bleak outlook on climate change.)

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