“Bad weather always looks worse through a window.”

If you are afraid of flying, it doesn’t seem to make a difference how often you fly or why you happen to be on that particular flight.  It is just an altogether unpleasant experience.  One in five passengers, whether they are business travelers or vacationers, has a fear of flying.  Such feelings of discomfort, anxiety, and fear are totally understandable given that you have little if any control over the plane or the environment that it is operating.

When driving your car, you can control how fast it goes, what direction it turns, and are able to look in any direction and see everything around you.  If you want to travel faster or slower you can push harder on the gas pedal or use the brake.  If you are driving at night you can turn on headlights.  If it’s raining or bad weather you can turn on your wipers, drive at reduced speeds, etc.  And if anything out of the ordinary happens that you don’t like, you can simply pull over to the side of the road and stop.  On a commercial airliner you don’t really have any of those options and it can be a little unsettling.  One of the biggest concerns passengers have is related to weather.

None of us has to be reminded just what kind of awesome power Mother Nature can unleash in the form of weather.  We have all seen what thunderstorms, ice and snow, strong winds, and other conditions can do to cars, roads, and houses.  But what most people don’t know is how or if airplanes can cope with the same situations…

The good news is that today’s commercial airliners are incredibly strong and equipped with a variety of systems that make them able to operate safely in just about every kind of weather imaginable.  Strong winds, lighting, and ice may cause problems for automobiles, but planes are designed with adverse weather conditions in mind.  That being said, even though planes are completely capable of flying through just about any kind of weather or storm, pilots constantly utilize a variety of information and resources to avoid bad weather and find the smoothest and safest path for any given flight.

In the coming weeks I’ll discuss a few different types of weather phenomena and how commercial airliners are designed or equipped to deal with each.  Feel free to ask questions or suggest topics.  My hope is that learning about how airplanes cope with factors like turbulence, lightning, and snow will help people be able to rationalize their fears and eventually overcome them.

-“Bad weather always looks worse through a window.” –Tom Lehrer-

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