In June 2017 dozens of flights were cancelled in Phoenix, Arizona because of temperatures exceeding 120 degrees Fahrenheit/48.9 degrees Celsius.1,2

Hot air at a given air pressure is less dense, generating less lift at a given speed. At least some commercial jets were not rated to fly in air that thin.

While the temperatures that summer were fairly extreme Phoenix is surely not the hottest place one earth, or at least not alone in this range. For example Kuwait City or the Iranian city of Ahvaz3 come to mind.

How do other hot places handle extreme heat? Do they also suspend operation or do they impose specific requirements like lower maximum loads, or do they have special adaptations for the thinner air like long runways, allowing higher speeds at take-off and landing?

1 https://airlinegeeks.com/2017/06/22/multiple-flights-cancelled-due-to-heat-in-phoenix/

2 https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2212012218300753

3 I found Ahvaz googling for hot places; I admit that I have never heard of it before even though it has more than a million inhabitants and an international airport, AWZ.


1 Answer 1


Transport aircraft are certificated to a maximum operating temperature for departure that is related to International Standard Atmosphere (ISA), typically 35 deg C above ISA (there may be airplanes certified to ISA +40), ISA being 15C at sea level and dropping from there at the standard adiabatic lapse rate .

ISA temperature at Phoenix airport at 1135 ft ASL is about 13 deg C, so the max temperature you can operate at is 48C, if your plane is certified to ISA +35 (if your plane was certified to ISA +40, you'd be good to 53C). This is based on the airport temperature reported on ATIS, not temperature measured at the aircraft.

At 48.9 C in the case you mentioned, you are above your maximum certified temperature for takeoff, so you are stuck until it cools off, and you'll simply have to wait for the temperature to drop a degree later in the day. This applies anywhere in the world based on the ISA temperature for the airport. So for example at a Middle Eastern airport at sea level, where ISA is 15C, you'd be good up to 50 deg C, and if it's above that temperature, you wait for it to cool off.


You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .