We all know that bad weather can affect flights. Delays and cancellations are common occurrences at airports when the weather closes in. While private jets are similarly subject to weather conditions, they are usually impacted less.
Changes to Flights Rather Than Grounding Flights
Private jet operations have much more flexibility than commercial airlines. They also tend to operate from smaller airports. Many of the delays that airlines experience are due to restrictions or limited capacity at airports. Private jets can avoid this at smaller airports and even change destinations slightly if it helps.
Behind the scenes, weather conditions will often have an impact on routing choices and flight duration. Operators and pilots will plan flights to avoid poor weather or make use of favourable wind (or jet stream) conditions. Aircraft can safely operate in most weather conditions but may take a different route or fly at a different altitude depending on conditions on the day.
Snow & Ice
It is the conditions on the ground that most affect aircraft operations. Snow can be some of the most disrupting. Aircraft, of course, do not have a problem with cold temperatures – only at the most extreme could it have an impact on jet fuel.
Blocked runways and restricted ground operations are the main problems. However, at smaller airports, clearing snow is usually a quicker task, and it is faster to get runways back into use. And once the airport can be used, there should be fewer delays for private aircraft.
Time (and extra cost) may be needed for de-icing as well. This is, of course, faster for a private jet than for a large aircraft, and smaller aircraft are also more likely to be shielded in a hangar before use.
Fog, Rain & Cloud
Visibility is obviously a key factor for aircraft. The problem here is often that busier airports have to restrict take-off and landing capacity in reduced visibility. Aircraft can, of course, operate using instruments and land safely.
Again, at smaller airports, private jets are less likely to be impacted by air traffic restrictions. And they are also more flexible to re-route or divert if conditions at a nearby location are better.
Rain accompanied by thunderstorm clouds can be more of a concern. Pilots will avoid flying through thunderstorm clouds entirely, and airports will restrict movements (and fuelling) when they are in the area. Again, private jets offer more flexibility in these conditions. They can get airborne faster when gaps open up and can be more flexible in approach routes to avoid clouds.
The wind is one of the main considerations in flight planning. Headwinds and tailwinds can have a significant impact on flight durations and fuel requirements. The westerly jet stream is also a major factor on longer flights, and making use of a strong jet stream can speed up a transatlantic flight considerably.
Turbulence is also a consideration. It is safe but doesn’t make for a very comfortable flight. This will also factor into planning a route.
All aircraft have airport operating limits in windy conditions as well. This is most restrictive if the winds are crosswind across the runway. Many general aviation airports have multiple runways to aid operations in different wind conditions.
Any flight can be delayed, or affected by the weather. With more flexibility in operations – but equally capable systems and equipment – you will often find private jets flying when commercial flights are grounded. Only in the most extreme cases would private flights be grounded, but even then they can often get airborne again much faster once things improve.
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If you have any questions about flight planning and its complexities, feel free to contact our team today for more information.