Now that summer is officially here, people across the United States are bracing for the heat. In Oklahoma, where weather is — to put it mildly — extreme, aviation officials work to make sure pilots remain safe and airports functional.
Dale Williams, deputy director of the Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission (OAC), who heads up the agency’s Airport Division, noted: “As an agency, we have to plan for Oklahoma’s weather extremes. Our runways, taxiways, and aprons bake and freeze for years during four annual seasons. Each year, OAC’s Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) funds projects to repair pavement distresses caused by Oklahoma’s severe seasonal conditions at our 110 public airports. Although we are unable to do projects at every airport each year, our CIP prioritizes these repair projects making sure Oklahoma’s runways are safe for the flying public.”
Although OAC deals with the after effects of Oklahoma’s seasonal conditions by filling cracks and sealing pavement, it is the pilots that use the airports that must be alert to the hot summer days, aviation officials warn.
Since the air is thinner during high temperatures, it often requires a longer runway for takeoff. Temperatures during takeoff and climb are major considerations when above 104°F.
Extremely warm environments usually produce performance problems rather than mechanical ones, particularly for general aviation aircraft. In those conditions, aircraft produce less lift, which means they need to achieve a higher speed to takeoff.
“Our commercial airports such as Will Rogers, Tulsa International, Lawton-Fort Sill Regional, and Stillwater Regional have the runway length needed to get commercial passenger aircraft safely off the ground, but when temperatures increase, we may have GA aircraft from time to time that will delay their departure,” said director Vic Bird with the OAC.
During intensely warm temperatures, smaller jets and propeller planes are more likely to be affected than commercial airliners. Commercial aircraft are better equipped for temperature related issues, Oklahoma aviation officials note.