Have you ever wondered why airplanes don’t fly over hurricanes? Well, they can! And they do!
Planes can even land safely during a hurricane, and so-called “hurricane hunters” have dedicated their lives to finding and chasing these weather events.
Hurricanes are powerful storms that can cause massive damage and death. They can also affect air traffic, disrupting flights and causing flight delays (see also “Does Rain Delay Flights?“).
Aircraft can fly through hurricanes because they are designed to withstand extreme weather conditions. The aircraft has special equipment that helps them navigate through dangerous areas.
Do Airplanes Fly in Hurricanes?
Yes, airplanes can fly in hurricanes. However, they usually avoid doing this unless they’re forced to.
Most airlines avoid flying through hurricanes because they want to protect the lives of passengers and crew members.
They know that flying through a hurricane can be very dangerous; a plane may become disabled, or it may crash into something like a mountain or a ship.
Unless circumstances render it absolutely necessary to fly through a hurricane, therefore, most pilots will avoid flying in, through, or over a hurricane unless absolutely necessary.
What Are Hurricane Hunters?
The term “hurricane hunters” is used to describe people who spend their entire careers trying to find and study hurricanes.
These individuals work for government agencies such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the National Weather Service (NWS).
They use planes equipped with specialized instruments to track hurricanes. This allows them to collect data on the strength and direction of the storm.
These data can help meteorologists predict how strong a hurricane might get before it hits land.
It’s important to note that there is no way to tell when a hurricane will hit land; however, scientists can make predictions about where a hurricane will go after it leaves the ocean.
How Do Hurricane Hunters Find Hurricanes?
To find a hurricane, hurricane hunters must first locate an area where one is likely to form. When a hurricane forms, it can travel thousands of miles across the Atlantic Ocean.
So, hurricane hunters look at satellite images from NOAA and other sources to try to identify areas where water is moving quickly.
Once they’ve identified an area where a hurricane could possibly form, they search for signs of tropical activity.
This includes things like clouds, wind patterns, and sea surface temperatures.
Once they spot a possible hurricane, they then wait until the storm reaches its peak intensity. At this point, they launch their planes and begin tracking the storm.
How Can Airlines Protect Passengers During Hurricane Season?
In addition to using hurricane hunters to ensure that the most up-to-date information on the weather is collected, there are several other things that airlines do to try to prevent accidents during hurricane season.
Keep Passengers Updated
First, airlines tend to warn passengers about possible flight delays and cancellations before the start of the hurricane season.
They also ask passengers to check airline websites and social media pages for updates and tell passengers to prepare for bad weather.
Avoid Active Hurricanes
Second, airlines often cancel flights scheduled to fly over areas where hurricanes are expected to form, or where there are warnings about the risk of hurricane formation.
They may also choose to delay flights until after the storm has passed. Part of this includes taking the time to check the weather forecast before takeoff, and having a plan if the weather changes.
Add To The Crew
Airlines will take extra precautions to ensure passenger safety when storms threaten. For example, they may add more crews to handle emergencies.
Extra training can also be provided for crews to ensure that they are totally confident and prepared in bad weather.
Have The Right Equipment
The most common type of plane that flies through hurricanes is the commercial airliner. Commercial airlines have specially trained pilots who know how to handle a stormy environment.
Commercial planes have special equipment on board to help with navigation in bad weather.
These include instruments called altimeters, which measure altitude above sea level; airspeed indicators, which show the speed at which an airplane travels; and magnetic compasses, which tell the pilot where north is.
It is also crucial to ensure that all planes are maintained properly to reduce the risk of issues and malfunctions when in the air.
Make The Most Of Radio And Radar
Airplanes can also use radar or radio signals from ground stations to find their way around. This information is used by the pilot to determine if he needs to change course.
Airplanes can also be equipped with special radios that allow them to communicate directly with air-traffic control towers.
When flying through a hurricane, these radios will let controllers know about any problems the pilot might encounter.
Turn Off The Engines
If all else fails, the pilot can always turn off the engines and glide to safety. Gliding is when an airplane stays aloft without using its engines. It’s done when there is no wind to push against the wings.
Carry Enough Fuel
Pilots should also make sure they have enough fuel onboard to get them out of the area safely. If they run low on gas, they could crash into another plane or lose power.
Choose The Right Height
Pilots need to remember not to fly too high or too low. Flying too close to the surface of the water can cause turbulence while flying too far away from the ocean can leave the plane exposed to strong winds.
During bad weather and hurricanes, planes should be kept at a minimum of 10 miles above sea level.
Pilots must also remember to use extra caution when flying near mountains and other tall objects, and when flying over open waters. They must also be aware of nearby ships and boats.
Know Your Destination
Knowing the layout and requirements of your destination will help you to stay calm, and can make it easier to regain control even if visibility is poor or winds are high.
Listen To Air Traffic Control
Always follow instructions from air traffic controllers, and always get permission to land if you’re lost.
Takeoff And Landing In Hurricane Winds
One of the biggest challenges that pilots face in hurricane winds is taking off and landing the plane safely.
To take off, pilots must first figure out whether the runway is clear. They do this by looking at the clouds below and the sky above.
If the clouds look like they’re getting closer together, then the wind may be blowing from the direction of the runway. The pilot would then wait until the wind died down before attempting to take off.
Once the runway is clear, the pilot would start the engine and increase thrust until the plane reaches full throttle.
As the plane gains momentum, the pilot would gradually decrease the amount of thrust until the plane is cruising along at a safe speed.
Once the plane has reached cruising altitude, the pilot would slowly reduce the throttle until the plane comes to a complete stop. Then, the pilot would shut down the engine and taxi back to the terminal.
Landing is much easier than taking off because the plane doesn’t have to gain as much speed. Instead, the pilot would simply follow the same procedure used to take off.
After reaching cruising altitude, the pilot will gradually increase the throttle until the plane starts moving forward again.
Once the plane is traveling at a safe speed, the pilot would slowly lower the throttle until the plane stops.
If the plane loses power, the pilot needs to find an airport with a functioning runway. If there’s no such place available, the pilot should try to set up a glide path.
A glide path is a series of waypoints where the pilot can put the plane down without crashing. To create one, the pilot would use his compass to determine which direction he wants to go.
He would then plot the course on a map using his GPS device. Finally, he would mark each point on the map with a small dot.
This process helps the pilot know exactly how long it’ll take him to reach the next waypoint.
When the plane gets to the final waypoint, the pilot would turn off his engine and let the plane glide to a safe landing. This option can be a safe way to land a commercial flight during tropical storms.
When flying through a hurricane, it’s important for pilots to stay alert. Pilots should keep track of the weather forecast so they know what kind of weather they’ll face.
They should also monitor the progress of the storm as it approaches. If a storm appears to be getting stronger, they should consider changing plans to avoid the risk of being caught in the middle of the storm.
Finally, pilots need to remember that they don’t have to fly into hurricanes. If they see bad weather approaching, they can choose to turn around and return home instead – even if they are flying a commercial aircraft.
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