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6 Tips For Flying On Hot-Weather Days

Do you want to enjoy your hot-weather flying a little more? Here are some tips for your next flight...

1) If you're going to "quick turn" an airplane after you land, get the engine cool by opening the cowl after you shut down.

Avgas is volatile, which means when it's heated up, it changes from a liquid to a gas. When that happens, the fuel pump isn't able to do its job (it's hard to pump vapor through a tube, and much easier to pump liquid through). The problems start at engine shut-down. When you shut down a hot engine, the heat rises, it heats up the fuel lines, and it vaporizes the fuel.

When you have vapor lock, the only solution is to pump a bunch of fuel through the lines, typically with a boost pump, and push the vaporized fuel out of the lines. But that brings up another problem: flooding the engine. Since there's no way to know exactly when the vaporized fuel has been purged from the injector lines, it's easy to flood the engine in the process.

What's the best solution for vapor lock? If you're going to "quick turn" an airplane after you land, get the engine cool by opening the cowl after you shut down. And if that's not an option, open any doors you can to let the heat escape, like the oil door on a Cirrus. While it may not be the best ventilating option, every little bit of cooling helps when you're getting ready for your next engine start.

2) Never ignore density altitude.

When the air is warmer than standard, it's less dense and performance decreases. The standard temperature at sea level is 15 degrees Celsius, or 59 degrees Fahrenheit. As you climb, the temperature decreases about 2 degrees Celsius per 1000 feet. But how much of a factor does non-standard temperature play?

Denver International Airport sits at 5,434 feet, and its average temperature in July is 88 degrees Fahrenheit (31.1 degrees Celsius). Since the standard temperature decreases 2 degrees Celsius for every 1000 feet, Denver's standard temperature is roughly 4.1 degrees Celsius. On an average day in July, Denver's temperature is 27 degrees Celsius above standard!

What does that do to Denver's density altitude? On an average July day, the temperature increases Denver's density altitude by 3012 feet to 8446 feet! That's why every one of Denver International's runways is at least 12,000' long - and one is 16,000' long.

3) Be careful where you put your headset or iPad.

Have you ever left a headset or iPad sitting on the dash of your airplane during a layover or quick fuel stop? Summertime heat will over-temp your iPad and could leave the headset too hot to use, at least for a few minutes. Throw them in the shady back seats!

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4) Do you know the criteria for convective SIGMETs?

It's officially thunderstorm season, and you're probably familiar with the fact that Convective SIGMETs contain bad weather. But how bad does it have to be? There are three different weather conditions included in a Convective SIGMET.

  • An area of thunderstorms affecting 3,000 square miles or greater, with thunderstorms affecting at least 40% of the area.
  • A line of thunderstorms at least 60NM long, with thunderstorms affecting at least 40% of the length.
  • Severe or embedded thunderstorms affecting any area that are expected to last 30 minutes or more.

5) Fly in the morning or evening to avoid thermal turbulence.

As the ground heats up, rising columns of air cause turbulence, making it hard to hold altitude, and causing your passengers to get sick. Nobody wants that to happen in your plane.

Fly early in the morning, avoid the thermals, and make your passengers happy.

6) You probably know that thunderstorms require three ingredients to form: moisture, instability and a lifting action.

Airmass thunderstorms are the most common storm you'll encounter. In the summer, they form almost daily all over the United States, and they often last less than an hour. They start with a towering cumulus shooting upward, then a rain shaft dropping down, and an anvil forming.

In most cases, the earlier you fly in the day, the less likely you are to encounter thunderstorms. And if you're flying a cross country, keep an eye out for areas of low pressure, and fronts. Both can cause wide areas of thunderstorms to develop.

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What tips do you have for hot-weather days? Tell us in the comments below.

Swayne Martin

Swayne is an editor at Boldmethod, certified flight instructor, and an Embraer 145 First Officer for a regional airline. He graduated as an aviation major from the University of North Dakota in 2018, holds a PIC Type Rating for Cessna Citation Jets (CE-525), and is a former pilot for Mokulele Airlines. He's the author of articles, quizzes and lists on Boldmethod every week. You can reach Swayne at swayne@boldmethod.com, and follow his flying adventures on his YouTube Channel.

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