Stay Cool

Summer heat can increase the risk of pilot incapacitation.

Tip Sun Shades

Tip Sun Shades

As summer approaches and temperatures begin to rise, it’s important to take steps to keep cool. Excessive heat can be incapacitating, and the effects might not hit you until you have already taken off. A Ryan Air pilot found this out the hard way as he passed out partway into a flight from Pisa, Italy, to Las Palmas, Spain, on July 6, 2011. The captain had to make an emergency landing, and a subsequent investigation concluded that the copilot had fainted as a result of excessive heat. The pilot had walked to the airport in Pisa during hot, sunny conditions right before the flight departed.

If you're flying on a hot day, try to keep yourself and your airplane covered until you are ready to start up the engine. Stay in an air-conditioned room or in the shade as much as you can. If you need to be out in the sun, wear a hat, sunscreen and loose, lightweight, light-colored clothing. Make sure you drink lots of water.

Keep your airplane inside the hangar during the preflight with the hangar doors open. If you are parked outside, invest in a cover or sunshades for the windows. They will dramatically reduce the temperature inside the cabin and protect the interior of your airplane from sun damage. You may even want to keep some sunshades up above you during flight if you’re flying in a glass-canopy-equipped airplane. Without sunshades, wear a hat.

If you are fortunate enough to have air conditioning installed in the airplane, your choice is simple. Turn it on as soon as you’ve cranked the engine. But if you don’t have A/C, the propeller acts as a big fan. Keeping the windows or doors open on the ground can provide enough cooling to keep you safe. But remember to shut them before you take off. After you’ve departed, you simply need to climb to an altitude that will keep you cool.