How Weather Can Affect Your Flight Plan

Every private pilot knows that weather is the most important risk factor to safe flying. As such, pilots work double duty as airplane navigators and amateur meteorologists.

Modern technology gives private pilots more platforms than ever to get immediate weather information and warnings before and during their flight. This access to up-to-date information helps ensure that safety and travel time aren’t compromised by weather events.

But despite the advantages of weather-predicting technology, some weather patterns can be hard to predict and plan for. Pop-up summer thunderstorms can move in quickly, and charged cumulonimbus clouds can turn into serious problems for pilots in minutes.

Whether you’re flying in summer or winter, every season poses its own weather-related challenges. Here’s how different types of weather can affect your flight plan, and how to stay prepared as a pilot.

Extremely Hot Weather

Although snowstorms and ice are the most commonly-known instigators in flight delays and cancellations, extremely hot and dry weather can also be a burden for pilots.

Many aircraft are safety rated to operate in temperatures of up to around 128 degrees Fahrenheit, meaning they can handle even the warmest dog days of summer with ease. And some private aircraft are fitted with energy-efficient, high-performance cooling systems, so you can travel in comfort no matter how hot it may be outside.

But extremely hot weather can pose difficulties for the plane’s performance. Because warm air is thinner than cool air, the aircraft’s fuel usage and aerodynamic abilities can be compromised by extremely hot, dry weather.

This means it takes more power to get the aircraft into the air, necessitating a longer runway to get off the ground It’s important for private pilots to factor these warm-weather challenges into their flight plan so they can reach their destination safely.

Summer Thunderstorms

When most people think of taking a flight in the summer, they probably imagine blue skies, sun, and no delays because of snow or ice. But pilots must navigate bumpy flights thanks to summer thunderstorms.

Pop-up thunderstorms throughout the summer (although much better predicted these days in areas) can be hard to predict in specific locations for even the best private pilots. That means you could encounter unexpected convective SIGMETs for turbulence throughout your flight.

In the warmer months, high humidity and warm temperatures can push massive amounts of warm, moist air into the atmosphere. This combination can quickly lead to a turbulent thunderstorm.

Pop-up summer thunderstorms can be some of the hardest weather events to predict. Unlike a warm or cold front, summer thunderstorms can be sparked by pressure and temperature shifts from previous thunderstorms, sea-breeze fronts, and higher or mountainous terrain.

If a storm is directly above the departure airfield, pilots are given no choice but to delay their departure until it passes. But despite the challenges posed by quickly-escalating summer storms, some pilots are lucky enough to be flying equipment able to handle this weather event by being able to top the weather, while others need to circumnavigate around the storms. Be aware of the direction of the storm movement, and give yourself plenty of distance to stay safe.

Before any trip, be sure to plan the most advantageous route around turbulent areas, and map out options for alternate airports and hangar spaces where you can take refuge in case the one you plan to arrive at is surrounded by storms.

Snow and Ice

If you’re a frequent flyer — either as a private pilot or a commercial passenger — it’s rare to have never experienced a flight delay because of snow or ice. Maybe most obviously, snow or other heavy precipitation can compromise a pilot’s visibility.

Accumulated snow or standing water that’s over a half-inch deep on a runway can make it difficult for pilots to generate enough flying speed for takeoff. The water can cause such extreme drag on the aircraft tires that the plane can’t take off before the runway ends.

Freezing rain is one of the most challenging weather events that keeps pilots on the ground for several reasons:

  • The aircraft can gather ice faster than de-icing equipment can remove it
  • The aircraft can lose traction in the ice, making it difficult to control
  • Braking can become uncertain if not impossible
  • Critical equipment can freeze

When it comes to extreme snow and ice, sometimes there is little a pilot can do besides wait out the conditions before it’s safe to fly.

All pilots are trained to predict and plan for weather-related challenges. While a particularly heavy snowstorm may keep your plane on the ground for a few hours or even a few days, other events should be safe enough for you to navigate, such as summer turbulence.

But even on the clearest of days, weather can change quickly and with little warning once you’re in the air. Paired with a global increase in severe and unpredictable weather patterns, it’s more important than ever for pilots to have a safe and thorough diversion plan for bad weather before taking flight.

In the case of dangerous weather, finding the closest diversion airport to you with available hangar space can be a lifesaver — for both you and your plane. Discover how Daily Hangar is giving pilots new options for streamlining their diversion plan »

5 Reasons for the Pilot Shortage & How to Fix It

There were over 4 billion air travelers in 2018, a number which is expected to nearly double by 2036.

Yet with the number of air travelers on the rise, the number of pilots continues to shrink. And as new aircraft enter the international fleet, the pressure for more pilots is that much higher.

Boeing has projected that the aviation industry will need 790,000 new pilots by 2037 to meet growing demand, with 96,000 of these pilots needed specifically in business aviation.

According to the Federal Aviation Administration, there were about 827,000 pilots in the U.S. in 1987. But over the last three decades, this number has decreased by 30%.

Many factors have contributed to the massive pilot shortage the aviation industry is now facing. Baby boomers are reaching mandatory retirement age for commercial pilots, while the military is increasingly relying on unmanned aerial vehicles and training fewer pilots who would later enter the business or commercial airline industry.

Additionally, massive industry changes such as the Airline Deregulation Act and the effects of 9/11 still carry financial repercussions for the airline industry as a whole.

Here are 5 reasons there are fewer pilots than ever before, and what the industry is doing to curb the shortage before it threatens the growth of global aviation.

1. Baby Boomers are Retiring

Baby boomer pilots make up the largest number of pilots who are flying today — almost 50%. And most of these pilots are about to retire.

A 2016 report by Boeing shows that 42% of the pilots currently flying for the major U.S airlines will reach their mandatory retirement age of 65 in the next 10 years.

Congress changed the mandatory retirement age for airline pilots from 60 to 65 in 2009. Although this would seem to be a short-time Band-Aid for the decreasing amount of pilots, some younger junior pilots believe this change crippled their career advancement opportunities, causing them to seek careers outside of the industry.

2. Fewer Pilots Provided by the Military

The number of pilots provided by the military has declined due largely to the use of unmanned aerial vehicles.

A lower demand for pilots means young aviators will have to pay for their own flight training, which can easily exceed $100,000. And in the light of an uncertain career future, many aspiring pilots may simply be unwilling to take the risk.

In the 1980s, around two-thirds of airline pilots were ex-military. Now, that percentage sits lower than one-third, and the Air Force predicts a 1,000-pilot shortage by 2022.

3. Airline Deregulation Act

In 1978, the Airline Deregulation Act completely changed the aviation world forever.

Prior to the act, the government controlled things like fares, routes, and market entry of new airlines. Deregulation introduced a free market in the commercial airline industry, leading to an increase in the number of flights, number of passengers and amount of miles flown, with a decrease in fares. The result was a rise of low-cost carriers, allowing more people to fly more often.

However, this act also led to a consolidation of carriers — and many that couldn’t keep up with the competition.

Between 1978 and mid-2001, eight major carriers (including Eastern, Midway, Braniff, Pan Am, Continental, Northwest Airlines, and TWA) and more than 100 smaller airlines went bankrupt or were liquidated — including most of the dozens of new airlines founded in deregulation’s aftermath.

“Since the 1978 economic deregulation of the U.S. airline industry, airline bankruptcy filings have become prevalent in the United States, and airlines fail at a higher rate than companies in most other industries.” – U.S. Government Accountability Office.

4. Financial Impacts of 9/11

In the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, airports were closed and flights were canceled for weeks. But even once airports were reopened, airlines experienced around a 30% decrease in demand during the initial shock period following reopening.

A week after 9/11, Congress gave suffering airlines up to $10 billion in loans. Yet several big-name American airlines declared bankruptcy not long after the 9/11 attacks.

Decreased passenger demand, canceled flights, and increased spending for security measures led to major financial losses for many airlines. Even those without prior financial issues were forced to renegotiate labor contracts and lay off high numbers of employees — like the 7,000 employees laid off by American Airlines.

Not only that, but increased TSA measures and baggage screenings in the wake of the attack led to about a 6% decrease in airline passengers, with a 9% decrease in the nation’s busiest airports, totaling a nearly $1 billion loss for the airline industry.

5. Stricter Safety Requirements (AKA the 1,500 Hour Rule)

The FAA mandated the 1,500-hour rule in 2013, which requires all commercial airline first officers (or “co-pilots”) to have at least 1,500 hours of accrued flight time to get an Air Transport Pilot certificate (ATP). Before this change, first officers needed just 250 hours.

The new rule also requires that ATP pilots earn an additional 1,000 flight hours before they can qualify to serve as captains.

Congress also changed the duty-time rules in 2010 to help relieve pilot fatigue. Airlines had to increase their pilot staffing by 5% to 8% to cover the same schedule, meaning they needed to hire even more qualified pilots.

How is the Airline Industry Combating the Pilot Shortage?

Most U.S. major airlines are not yet directly experiencing the pilot shortage. But smaller regional airlines are already feeling the burn. Many flight schedules have been reduced, and some have already gone bankrupt due to low pilot staffing.

There are several initiatives to recruit and train more pilots in the U.S. For example, Airlines like JetBlue are offering employees an opportunity to train for the specific aircraft types they use. Other initiatives are aimed at encouraging more women to become pilots, while another idea is to recruit AI-enabled automation to help relieve demand.

But training new pilots takes time, and entering the field can be cost-prohibitive to some women candidates. As for automation, it’s likely that safe, reliable AI technologies are more than a decade away from being ready for use on commercial flights.

Whether it’s heightening the retirement age or lowering training hours, increasing wages and benefits or developing faster technology, something’s gotta give. In less than a decade, the pilot shortage may begin to put the growth projected for global aviation at risk.

Across the country, many private pilots rely on tie-downs and commercial FBOs for storing their planes between legs. But do you know the hazards of routinely storing your plane outside? »

New Options for Streamlining Your Diversion Plan

When it comes to planning for a cross-country flight, private pilots have more platforms than ever to get immediate and up-to-date weather warnings and information. Prior to departure pilots have sites like Wxbrief, Fltplan, Garmin pilot, and of course a call to FSS, to name a few.

Most modern aircraft allow pilots to get WiFi. Wi-Fi has allowed for even more in-flight options for pilots to obtain weather reports from mobile apps like Jeppesen FliteDeck, ForeFlight, or Aeropointer.

With the abundance of platforms that private pilots can use to get critical weather information before their flight, getting caught in a storm or surprised by unanticipated weather should be an easily avoidable issue. Yet it continues to happen on a regular basis.

VFR into IMC is extremely dangerous and potentiality fatal. And recently, there has been an increase in education and awareness to help reduce these occurrences. So why do pilots continue to find themselves surprised and trapped by adverse weather conditions?

Research suggests the answer may be because of that exact abundance: with so many weather providers and weather-reporting products, it can be difficult for pilots to screen out non-essential data, focus on key facts, and expertly evaluate the risk.

Paired with an increase of severe and unpredictable weather patterns, it’s more important than ever for pilots to have a safe and thorough diversion plan for bad weather before taking flight. And in the case of dangerous weather, finding the closest diversion airport to you with available hangar space can be a lifesaver — for both you and your plane.

What is a Diversion Procedure?

A diversion procedure is an alternate or a “plan B” for when you need to change your destination while en-route in the event of unexpected and dangerous weather conditions, or if your plane is at risk of fuel exhaustion.

It’s important to have specific criteria for deciding when you need to divert, and to have the necessary training to quickly initiate a diversion when you need to. The idea is to establish in advance of your flight what you consider to be adequate weather conditions, your personal minimums, and then automatically cancel or divert if conditions fail to meet those minimum requirements.

It’s also critical to make an accurate estimate of the heading, ground speed, and fuel consumption to reach your alternate destination, as well as an approximate arrival time. And no diversion plan is complete without selecting a suitable alternate airport and route where you can store your plane until it’s safe to fly again. But finding the closest airport to you with hangar availability can sometimes be a challenge.

How to Find an Airport in the Event of a Diversion

The two most important factors in choosing an appropriate alternate airport for a diversion are:

  1. Most obviously, the new airport destination needs to be located where weather conditions are significantly better than your original destination, and
  2. It needs to be somewhere you can reach with your fuel reserve.

For most diversion procedures, you don’t have time or necessarily the availability to make numerous phone calls to make arrangements for your plane. You need to aviate, navigate, and communicate until you can make any other arrangements. In the digital era, the ability to have “information at your fingertips” makes the process of finding these arrangements easy.

Diversion procedures are typically performed spontaneously, so you won’t have a lot of time planning. Filing for or having an alternate airport is something you plan for as part of the original flight plan. A diversion happens when the original plan doesn’t culminate as planned.

Sometimes, the closest FBO and/or airport isn’t that close when you need to divert. Or in some cases, they may not have hangar availability for your plane. Although there may be tie-down options available, that leaves your plane susceptible to weather damage, theft, and vandalism.

In these cases, a private hangar may be the best option for you and your plane when you’re in a pinch and need to divert.

How Daily Hangar Helps Pilots Divert in a Pinch

With the prominence of Wi-Fi onboard many private planes, it makes sense for there to be a streamlined platform for private pilots and/or their flight desk operators to find a diversion destination quickly — without wasting time making multiple phone calls to find availability.

Daily Hangar allows pilots or their flight desk operators to find available hangars across the country and book them with a touch of a button. And your choices aren’t restricted to the closest FBO — our network of private hangar owners across the country means you have a whole buffet of choices for hangaring your plane, not just a limited menu of FBOs.

The ability to immediately book the closest available hangar is invaluable when an unexpected storm rolls in. But Daily Hangar is also a powerful tool for planning cross-country trips before you take flight.

Whether you’re flying for business or are taking the family across the country this summer, Daily Hangar allows you to customize your trip with a multitude of private hangar options. Ready to learn more about becoming part of the Daily Hangar community? Check out our FAQs for private pilots & hangar owners »

3 Reasons You Shouldn’t Store Your Private Plane Outside

Whether you’re taking off for a leisurely weekend trip or for business, you have a few different choices for storing your private plane once you land. With over 5,000 airports in the continental United States, some the services at each airport may vary greatly. Plus, availability (or knowledge of availability) and the prices of options to store your plane can vary greatly.

Some pilots prefer to use tie-downs located in dedicated aircraft parking lots across the country. Tie-downs are cheap (or even free in some cases), accessible, and easy to use.

However, storing your plane outside or using a tie-down has its drawbacks. Exposure to the elements could lead to quicker deterioration of your aircraft, which could mean higher maintenance costs over time. Not to mention the price of theft or vandalism to your plane. Both of these risks can lead to costly maintenance repairs that you can avoid by storing your plane in a hangar.

On top of this, extreme weather patterns are increasingly becoming more frequent. Pilots and flight desk operators need to make sure they not only have a smart flight plan, but that they have a smart ground-plan for protecting their plane when they need to land.

Here are the potential risks of storing your plane outside, and how you can prolong the life of your plane and save money by using a private hangar.

Increasingly Extreme Weather Patterns

Unpredictable and violent weather occurrences are more frequently being posted on social media outlets and weather resource websites. Regardless of whether this information sharing is because of increasingly irregular weather patterns or because we have more technological platforms to share information, being stuck in a storm mid-air could lead to devastating outcomes. Before taking off, pilots and/or their flight desk operators spend time putting together flight plans for that very reason.

The climate data below is from Denver, CO, from 2010 to April 2019. The graphs depict temperature and precipitation data for the current time period, measured against historical averages.*
*(2016 data was partial).

We can take away 3 important observations from these 10 years’ worth of data:

  1. Weather is cyclical;
  2. Some years are drought-heavy, while others are precipitation heavy. Others are well balanced (2010 for example), and
  3. Temperatures generally follow the trend lines. However, the amplitudes of the temperature differences in minimum and maximum seem to be increasingly larger.

Even with this data. we can see that weather is constantly shifting from year to year and month to month, providing pilots with an ever-changing challenge when taking flight. This is why flight plans are so important.
However, one thing that pilots and flight desk operators can forget is a ground plan. What do you do with your aircraft when you’re not in flight?

Risk of Weather Damage

When you use an outdoor tie-down, your plane is vulnerable to harsh weather patterns. Although private planes are industrious in the face of most weather events, prolonged exposure can lead to quicker deterioration and more maintenance costs over the life of the aircraft.

Whether it’s a windy fall morning in Maine, a cold snowy evening in the Midwest, or a hot summer day in the Rockies, any of these conditions can add wear and tear to your aircraft. And high-altitude environments with harsh UV exposure can add extra stress to the exterior of your plane.

Exposure to high UV rays can dull your paint job, fade your decals, damage acrylic windows, and reduce the life of fabric coverings. Meanwhile, extreme cold and snow can damage any wood or fabric details, while hail can damage metal exteriors.

Storing your plane in a hangar means prolonging the life and health of your plane. Plus, if you’re about to fly out on a particularly warm, wet, or frigid day, your plane will be dry and comfortable when you hop inside.

Risk of Vandalism and Pests

What do vandals, thieves, and vermin all have in common? Complete access to your private plane when you use an outdoor tie-down.

Private planes are far from a cheap investment. The last thing you want to worry about is having parts of your plane broken or stolen. If your plane is vandalized in any way without your detection, it could pose a serious risk to your safety when you fly.

One lesser-known risk for storing your plane outdoors is the ability for animals and other vermin to weasel into your plane. Whether they chew on certain parts, leave droppings, or get stuck and perish, you don’t want to find out your plane has a mice problem once you’re 10,000 feet in the air.

Airports are often much more secure than tie downs, with fences or other security measures in place. Ideally, airports should be well-lit, have motion-activated lighting, cameras, and all employees should be trained to be watchful for crime. But that doesn’t always prevent theft or vandalism.

Recently, avionics were stolen out of at least 16 aircraft in Aurora, Missouri. The total value of the lost items is estimated to be close to hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Risk of Higher Maintenance and Repair Costs

Damage caused by exposure to the elements or by damage or theft both lead to the third risk of storing your private plane outside: higher and more frequent maintenance and repair costs.

Repainting your sun-baked airplane or replacing a cracked window after a hail storm isn’t cheap. Neither is replacing or fixing broken or stolen parts.

Using a tie-down for your aircraft may seem like the cheaper option at first blush. But when you add up the potential costs associated with storing your plane outside, using a hangar can save you money over time.

Parking in a hangar will help protect your aircraft from both weather damage and the risk of vandalism and theft. But not all airports will have private hangars available when you need them. And if a bad storm is rolling in, availability may be sparse and the price may be high.

That’s where Daily Hangar comes in. We are growing a community of available transient hangar spaces that are identifiable on a map. We provide detailed descriptions of each hangar, available amenities, pricing, and availability specific to your aircraft.

We are continuing to build our network of private hangars and FBOs across the country, allowing pilots and flight desk operators to book hangars in advance. We’re here to help you get the access you need to a hangar for your aircraft whenever you need it.

Get answers to our most frequently asked questions about booking a hangar today »