We all know how frustrating it can be to have your flight delayed. When you have been looking forward to a trip or vacation for a long time, the last thing you want is to have to wait for hours in the departure lounge of the airport whilst your flight is postponed.
These days, commercial airlines do all they can to try to keep flight schedules running smoothly, because delays cost them time, money, and reputation damage. However, sometimes delays are unavoidable.
One of the most common reasons for flight delays are severe weather conditions. Mother nature has a way of disrupting travel plans no matter what mode of transport you are using, and airplanes are no exception. But can rain delay flights, and if so, why?
In this article, we examine what causes flight delays, and how rain might impact your travel plans.
What Is The Most Common Cause Of Flight Delays?
There are many different factors that contribute to flight delays, but one of the biggest culprits is adverse weather conditions.
When we talk about “adverse weather conditions”, we mean anything from thunderstorms to heavy snowfall, blizzards, hurricanes, and strong winds.
All these weather events cause problems for air traffic controllers who must make sure planes don’t collide with each other as well as make sure there is enough space on runways to land safely.
When a plane does take off into a storm, it may not be able to fly at full speed due to poor visibility. This means that when the pilot tries to reach their destination, he will need to slow down to ensure he lands safely.
In some cases, the pilot may even choose to turn back to the nearest airport rather than risk landing in dangerous conditions.
What Other Factors Cause Flight Delays?
Extreme weather conditions aren’t always the reason behind flight delays and flight cancellations.
Sometimes, pilots simply decide to divert their flight path to avoid flying over an area where there is severe turbulence.
Strong winds can make for a turbulent flight, and although modern aircraft are more than capable of dealing with air turbulence, it can be unsettling for nervous passengers and flight crew.
This is why most flight operations are adjusted to avoid such instances – even if it does mean that a flight time is increased.
Although the majority of flight delays are caused by bad weather conditions, there are also other factors that can play a part.
For example, mechanical failures such as engine failure, runway issues (such as flooding), and technical issues (such as electrical faults) can all lead to flight delays.
How Does Rain Impact Flight Delays?
Rain can affect flight delays in several ways. Firstly, it could disrupt the flow of air traffic around airports. If the wind direction changes suddenly, this can result in aircraft needing to change course, which in turn could create more congestion.
Secondly, rain can cause surface water to accumulate on the ground, leading to slippery surfaces. This can make it harder for planes to stop safely, especially during takeoff and landing.
Thirdly, rain can increase the weight of aircraft, meaning they are less likely to lift off the ground. This increases the chances of a crash occurring.
Finally, rain can reduce visibility, which makes it harder for pilots to see obstacles like trees and buildings. This can lead to accidents, especially if the plane is low to the ground.
So, although rain isn’t usually the main cause of flight delays, it can still contribute to them.
Can A Plane Fly During Heavy Rain?
The FAA has strict rules regarding the amount of precipitation that can be present on the ground before a plane can take off or land. These rules were put in place because of the potential dangers associated with taking off and landing in rainy conditions.
However, most airlines allow planes to take off and/or land in moderate amounts of rainfall. The only time that planes should not take off or land is when there is extreme rain.
Can Rain Cause Turbulence?
Turbulence occurs when the air around us becomes unstable. It happens when the airflow around an object is changing rapidly, causing small eddies to form.
These eddies can become so strong that they interfere with the airflow around the plane. As a result, the plane experiences turbulent winds, which can make it feel uncomfortable and unsafe.
In addition to making planes feel uneasy, turbulence can also damage engines. This is why many airlines prefer to wait until the skies clear before allowing flights to take off and land.
Rain is not the cause of turbulence, but it does add to its intensity. When clouds pass through areas of high pressure, the air temperature drops quickly. This causes the surrounding air to rise up, creating a downdraft.
This downdraft creates stronger eddies than usual, which in turn leads to turbulence. In fact, the strength of the downdraft is directly proportional to the size of the cloud passing over.
What Type Of Weather Causes The Most Delays?
The type of weather that causes most problems is dependent on what part of the world you are traveling in. High winds are a problem in the UK and the Netherlands, whereas heavy snowfall is a problem in parts of Japan.
Weather plays a major role in determining whether or not a flight will experience any delays at all. For example, a flight from New York to London might encounter severe storms as it passes over the Atlantic Ocean.
On the other hand, a flight from Los Angeles to San Francisco could be delayed by light showers while flying over the Pacific Ocean.
Generally speaking, the more volatile the weather, the greater the chance of delays. This is because weather changes very quickly, which means that airplanes must adjust their routes accordingly.
How Do Airlines Deal With Bad Weather?
Commercial aircraft are equipped with state of the art radar technology that enables pilots and air traffic control to constantly monitor the weather.
Extreme weather events can be picked up before they happen, and weather accounts are updated constantly to ensure that data is relevant and live.
Flight operations can be altered by air traffic control or by the pilots in the event of a storm. Automatic landing equipment can assist pilots and help them execute a safe landing even in severe thunderstorms.
Airlines try to give passengers as much notice of weather delays as possible, and most offer flight delay compensation when extra time is added to a journey or departure time.
Although it can be very annoying to have your flight delayed due to adverse weather, it is far more important that airlines exercise caution and put air safety above all else.
Any circumstance where weather could pose a danger to passengers is taken very seriously, and this is exactly how it should be. Having to wait for a few extra hours in the departure lounge is a small price to pay for your safety and peace of mind.