Flight gets messed up. So, you know when your travel plans go haywire? Odds are, it’s the weather’s fault, especially during the holiday rush.
The thing is, weather creates about 75% of all the problems that mess up flights in the US, says the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). But not all weather is created equal when it comes to causing chaos up in the air. Here are the top four weather troubles that might just throw a wrench in your travel plans, from not-so-bad to seriously-huge-pain:
4. Blustery Winds
You’d think planes just go up and down like no big deal, right? Wrong! Wind speed and direction play a huge role in making takeoffs and landings safe.
Planes like to land and take off facing into the wind—it gives them the oomph and steadiness they need. Without a good headwind, they might struggle getting off the ground or land too fast.
Airports aim to have runways pointing in the same direction as the most common wind. But when strong crosswinds hit—those blowing across a plane’s path—it gets tough. Pilots have to deal with these by landing at an angle to fight the wind, and that can lead to rough landings or, worst-case scenario, missing the whole runway!
3. Can’t See a Thing
Visibility drops with different weather like dense fog, heavy rain, or snow, causing major delays.
Even though pilots can fly using instruments in clouds, having good ol’ eyesight near the runway is essential. Pilots need to see enough of the runway to spot possible dangers that instruments might miss—like other planes unexpectedly popping up.
But sometimes, things get hairy. In places like New York and Austin, near misses happened because planes almost collided on runways due to low visibility.
2. Snow and Ice Trouble
Winter brings its own drama with snow and ice causing big problems for planes.
On the ground, clearing runways of slippery snow is crucial for takeoffs and landings. But up in the air, it’s about keeping ice off planes. If ice builds up on wings, it messes with how air flows over them—messing up the lift that keeps planes up. Too much ice can even make a plane roll or behave weirdly mid-air!
Flying through clouds at freezing temperatures can coat planes in ice. If a plane has to descend through that freezing mess, it’s gotta get out of there fast or risk trouble.
1. Thunderstorm Showdown
Thunderstorms aren’t just a summer thing—they can pop up in the holiday season too!
These storms are bad news for flying. They bring severe turbulence—think crazy winds, updrafts, downdrafts, and hail. Inside a thunderstorm, planes face a bumpy ride that can cause injuries or worse.
To dodge the worst of it, planes take longer routes around thunderstorms instead of through them. That means more time in the air and later arrivals, causing a domino effect of delays.
Wrapping It Up
So yeah, weather’s the big boss when it comes to messing with your flight plans. From wind troubles to thunderstorm chaos, it’s a wild ride up there. But hey, sometimes flying earlier in the day can help dodge those stormy troubles.