Sky Harbor Airport ready for extreme temperatures? Heat wave brings memories of June 1990 record

PHOENIX - On June 26, 1990, as Phoenix sweltered in record-breaking heat of 122 degrees, the hometown airline, then known as America West Airlines, was forced to temporarily ground its fleet of aircraft at Sky Harbor Airport.

As the temperature rose to 120 degrees, pilots were at the top of their engine performance charts to figure calculations for take-offs.  

The charts take into consideration airplane weight, altitude of airport location, runway length, and air temperature, plus other variables, to determine what adjustments are needed for proper take-off.

Since the charts that America West had only went up to 120 degrees, all flights were grounded by the airline per FAA guidelines until the new chart information was provided by Boeing Aircraft, the manufacturer of America West's aircraft. 

The delay was just over an hour, but it was the first and only time that Sky Harbor had delays due to extreme heat.

Safety was never an issue in regards to the performance of the aircraft.

Boeing's engineering of the planes allow for them to fly in temperatures much higher than what was experienced in Phoenix.

It was simply a paperwork snafu for the airline since they didn't have the charts that had more extreme temperature ranges that might be experienced in other parts of the world, such as the Middle East, where temperatures are more commonly in the 120 degree range.

That kind of heat shouldn't be an issue for pilots or the airport in the future.


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