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Flying: Weather determines whether your head is in the clouds or you'll stay grounded

By Chelsea Humphrey, chumphrey@ktxs.com
Published On: May 01 2013 06:24:35 PM CDT
Updated On: May 01 2013 11:01:45 PM CDT
ABILENE, Texas -

Planes and pilots are all over the Big Country and they're paying attention to the weather.

With our ever-changing West Texas weather, though, it's important to know how the two are related.

One of the more obvious elements is thunderstorms. "There's hail, there's tornadoes, there's microbursts, there's severe turbulence and it's just bad for everybody" says Dan Kenley, Chief Flight Instructor with TSTC.

One that might not be so obvious? The temperature. When it's too hot, it takes the plane longer to takeoff and it can't climb as well. Cooler weather brings the performance levels back up but you have to watch out for frost on the wings. The optimal flying temperatures is 15 degrees Celsius or 59 degrees Fahrenheit.

Winds also play a big factor. Planes always must take off and land into the wind. Winds perpendicular to the runway, or crosswinds, can be beyond the capabilities of the aircraft and make landing a dangerous proposition.

Flying in cloudy conditions or low/no visibility situations require special training.

"When you get into the clouds, the senses that you have always used to tell up from down are gone and they will lie to you" says Kenley.

That's why pilots are trained to fly using only their instruments. Without this training, studies show, the pilot will lose control of the plane in about ten minutes.