This is only going to get more common thanks to climate change.
Today, Phoenix is forecast to hit a toasty 120 degrees Fahrenheit, hot enough to force the city’s Sky Harbor International Airport to cancel some 43 flights.
The cancelled flights were all regional and running smaller Bombardier CRJs. These planes have a maximum operating temperature of 118 degrees, as American Airlines explained in a statement to local Arizona Republic.
The problem is that the hotter air has a lower density than colder air, as the BBC explains, and with less density comes less lift. With less lift, planes have to run their engines harder to take off. For larger jets, this 120 degree temperature is something their big engines can handle—they can safely take off at up to 126 degrees. It’s the littler regional jets that don’t have the oomph. (That’s a technical term.)
Again, climate change is going to make our temperature swings only more extreme, and we’ll see this happen more and more often to smaller planes at hotter airports.
(Hat tip to Tom!)