How pilots adapt their takeoff plans at hot and high airports

We’ve all been there, trying to run on a hot day. It’s hard work. If you’ve tried doing it in a city like Denver, Johannesburg or Mexico City, you’ll know how much harder it is at altitude. It feels like the air is thinner and it’s much harder to breathe. You’re not imagining this and it’s the same for aircraft.

Departing in hot weather at high altitude airports reduces aircraft takeoff performance. When operating in these conditions, pilots must pay close attention to the environmental conditions as they can affect the flight in more ways than you might imagine.

Air density

Aircraft fly not because of the engines, but because of the lift generated by the wings. In its most basic form, the faster air flows over the surface of a wing, the more lift is generated. However, in the real world, it’s not quite as simple as this.

The amount of lift created is very much dependent on not only the speed of air flowing over the wing but also the density of that air — in effect, how many air molecules are passing over the wing in a given time. The more air molecules passing over the wing, the greater the lift.

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