The challenges for pilots when landing at hot and high airports

Everything becomes an effort when it gets too hot. Going for a run is hard work, focusing on a task takes extra concentration and a decent night’s sleep is hard to come by. Do all this at altitude in a place like Johannesburg or Mexico City and these tasks become even harder. It’s the same for flying an aircraft.

Last week I wrote about how hot and high conditions affect our takeoff performance. Like with all things in life, what goes up must come down, so it will come as no surprise that high temperatures and elevation also require careful thought and planning when landing.

The effects of heat and altitude

Aircraft fly because of lift generated by the wings. The engines merely provide the forward thrust to drive the wing forwards. As air passes over the wing, the difference in pressure between the top and bottom surfaces, and the angle at which the air hits the wing, creates lift. However, not all air is the same.

The total amount of lift generated depends on two factors. The speed which the air passes over the wing and how dense that air is. Air density, in its most basic form, is how many air molecules there are in a given space. The more air molecules, the denser the air and the more lift is generated.

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