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United States Department of Transportation United States Department of Transportation

Navigating Around Bad Weather

Extreme Heat and Aircraft

In extreme heat, the air is less dense and generates less lift. The maximum takeoff temperature depends on airplane taking off at sunsetfactors including the make and model of the aircraft, its weight and airport altitude. 

The FAA doesn’t cancel flights or tell airlines they can’t operate in certain temperatures. Airlines and flight crews are responsible for following the provisions of the manufacturer’s aircraft operations manual, which specifies the maximum temperatures in which the aircraft can be operated.

In some cases, airlines can reduce aircraft weight to safely take off by offloading cargo or passengers, or reducing the amount of fuel loaded, which may add a fuel stop to reach the intended destination. 

While reducing weight can be an option, temperatures sometimes exceed the maximum the plane was subjected to during testing. When that happens, there is no data that shows flying in those temperatures would be safe.

Lightning Protection

FAA aircraft design regulations require an airplane to be able to withstand lightning and lightning over airportcontinue a safe flight and landing. Airlines must have procedures in their maintenance program for inspections after such events.

The FAA strengthened its lightning protection requirements in 2018 to align airworthiness standards with the industry's and the FAA's understanding of lightning and to address inconsistency and impracticality that applicants experienced with previous lightning protection regulations.

The FAA has extensive guidance for manufacturers to meet our requirements:

FAA's Command Center

The FAA’s Command Center works closely with airlines to plan for, and around, expected weather nationwide. On a local level, National Weather Service meteorologists housed at the FAA's 22 centers handling high-altitude traffic provide down-to-the-minute weather predictions for exact arrival and departure routes in the busiest parts of the U.S. airspace. 

Check out the Command Center Weather Briefings to get daily updates and information on how the weather may affect your travel direct from our Command Center staff.

Map of weather patterns across the United States. January to July 2022 vs. January to July 2017-2019 baseline
Weather patterns are different this year across the United States. This map shows weather patterns from January-July 2022 vs. January-July 2017-2019 baseline.

Additional Resources

Last updated: Monday, October 2, 2023