SURVIVE THE STORM: Affects of weather on air travel

Published: Apr. 3, 2017 at 8:06 PM CDT
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We've all been there before, waiting around anxiously when your flight is running behind. Weather is the main reason why flight's get delayed or canceled.

Whether it's at departure, in route, or arrival stormy or wintery conditions at any of those spots can halt air travel.

“The main thing there is going to be the turbulence, the downdrafts, and the updrafts that you can get throughout that thunderstorm that could shift the airplane,”said Austin Pippin, Premier Flight Center.

Austin Pippin is an instructor and a pilot with Premier Flight Center in Springfield. He says pilots avoid flying if there are thunderstorms in their route.

“You have severe turbulence at that point and by having that turbulence it’s not going to be a smooth ride for passengers,” Pippin said.

The other issue with flying in to a storm is encountering a microburst. It's a rush of downward moving winds.

“We end up getting better performance whenever we enter a microburst because we’re getting a head wind at that part. Airplanes always perform better with head winds," Pippin explains. "As we go through the middle and off to the backside of the head wind to a tail wind. That’s whenever it gets really dangerous for the airplanes.”

However, commercial airliners have a system to detect a microburst and low level wind shear.

What about lightning? Actually, lightning is not a huge issue as most planes are equipped to handle it.

“What’s called static wick’s. They are on the controlled surfaces of our airplanes," said Pippin. "So, we have them on our wings, the horizontal stabilizer, or the tail part of it. What those do is they dissipate the static through the airplane.”

Flying in winter storms can also be dangerous due to snow and icing.

“It disrupts the airflow over the wings which is what produces our lift. So, it’s to disrupt the lift we have. Now in commercial airplanes they have deicing systems that they can use in order to break that ice off,” Pippin said.

In the end, the pilot makes the final call for taking off after looking at a weather briefing and current conditions.

The majority of crashes in aviation aren't due to weather. Most are attributed to pilot error.