February 2010 Issue

How Rain May Affect Aircraft Performance

Flying in rain might get you a free rinse but it can also affect your airplane’s performance in a variety of ways.

To my mind, only a couple of decent reasons exist to fly through rain: First, because your destination is out there in or beyond the precip—and it’s light rain and not far through it, at that; second, because you’re too cheap or lazy to wash the plane normally. Otherwise, rain stands among those conditions to not take lightly—and on many fronts, to be taken as a condition to avoid as much as possible. When you think about it systematically, a lot goes on with the airplane when exposed to rain and—aside from the possibility of improved cooling on a hot day—it’s difficult to conjure up much to commend rain flying to anyone. But, we know you’re going to fly in the rain; we do, too, but begrudgingly and guardedly—or avoid it if the datalink weather returns show orange or red. So instead of saying, "Don’t do what we do, have done, and will probably do again," we offer five strong reasons to make you think about what’s happening to the aircraft when flown in rain.

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