Here in the southeast, the temperatures are unusually high. The same is true of other areas of the south and southwest. This past week, the forecasters predicted highs in the realm of 107 to 110.

Of course, as aviators, we know the high temperatures create less dense air. Consequently, wings and propellers cannot “grip” as much air because the air molecules are spread out. Additionally, engines cannot produce as much power because of less volume of air capable of entering the engine.

What then happens can be very interesting in the context of airplane performance. You will see marked increases in take off distances; as the pilot flying, you may see the climb capability cut by as much as half; you will find both the service and absolute service ceilings reduced considerably; and the landing distance can leave a pilot very surprised on a landing rollout.

On the practical side beyond aviation, the sad story includes the deaths of 39. The National Weather Service (NWS) has issued warnings to 24 states.

In Oklahoma City, the mercury has hit the century mark for two solid weeks. While it may seem an unenviable streak, the city of Phoenix has seen thermometers above 100 for more than a month.  

The real problem with this heat for humans is the loss of moisture in our bodies. Many fail to realize the toll this heat is taking on them and they are not replenishing their bodily fluids (read water) properly. The problem with this is the effect it has on your mental and physical performance. Many, particular the younger set, fail to realize the importance of drinking water. This is particularly true when it comes to functioning as an aviator. The ugly thing about not drinking enough water is that it can result in a loss of consciousness episode.

If this happens, stand by. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), specifically the Aeromedical folks, are going to want a whole lot of medical testing in order to re-award a medical certificate to a pilot who goes unconscious at the controls of an airplane.

Personally, I can take the heat much better than I can deal with the cold. However, like airplanes, I am coming to realize my body does not want to function well in the heat.

I think it is time for a siesta…


©2011 J. Clark

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2 Responses to Heat

  1. Harrison says:

    Point well taken, Joe. It’s also very easy to become dehydrated in a pressurized jet. The system wrings out what little humidity there is at altitude and leaves you “high and dry” so to speak. A fourteen hour flight can leave your skin and your brain a little flaky.

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