If you’re on the ground, you definitely have to watch out and take precautions when a hurricane is coming, but most planes can actually fly over most hurricanes.
Because hurricanes mostly affect the ground and have little reach at 30,000 feet in the air. As a result, most planes can technically cruise over them without issue.
Yet, almost all airlines won’t permit pilots to fly over hurricanes unless there is a good reason to do so.
The problem is that a hurricane can create severe turbulence, and also prevent planes from safely completing emergency landings.
And, since hurricanes affect the ground below, planes also can’t take off or land during them.
The same principle also applies to other bad weather events, like tropical storms and thunderstorms. Planes can technically fly over them but can’t land or take off during them.
Table of Contents
- 1 Can Planes Fly Over Hurricanes?
- 2 How Planes Are Able to Fly Over Hurricanes
- 3 Why Planes Won’t Fly Over Hurricanes
- 4 Planes Can Fly Through Hurricanes
- 5 Planes Won’t Take Off and Land During a Hurricane
- 6 The Type of Hurricane Can Make a Difference
- 7 Airports Will Shut Down During a Hurricane
- 8 Can Planes Fly Over Tropical Storms?
- 9 Can Planes Fly in Thunderstorms?
Can Planes Fly Over Hurricanes?
Technically, most small planes could fly over hurricanes.
But, most small plane pilots will avoid doing due to the increased risks.
Private jets easily fly over hurricanes since they fly at altitudes of upwards of 41,000 feet.
Commercial airliners from Boeing and Airbus are also technically capable of flying over hurricanes.
But virtually all airlines avoid flying over them because of the increased risk.
A majority of fighter jets can fly over hurricanes because they fly at high altitudes.
But, most militaries will avoid flying planes near hurricanes.
How Planes Are Able to Fly Over Hurricanes
Hurricanes occur close to the ground, so a plane can just reach an altitude at which they can just fly over them.
Commercial, military, and private planes routinely fly over altitudes of 30,000 feet, which is high enough for hurricanes to have no direct impact on the aircraft.
Why Planes Won’t Fly Over Hurricanes
Flying over hurricanes can be risky, depending on how much a plane needs to climb to avoid the hurricane, the severity of the hurricane, and the type of aircraft.
Additionally, if a plane suffers an engine failure and needs to descend rapidly, a hurricane below could potentially crash the plane.
As a hurricane on the ground would prevent a plane from safely landing, as a rule, airlines avoid flying over hurricanes to ensure planes can safely land during emergencies.
Private planes still fly over hurricanes if the plane’s owner and the pilot take the risk.
Military planes will tend to avoid flying over hurricanes to avoid potential damage to the aircraft, which are worth tens of millions of dollars.
Planes Can Fly Through Hurricanes
It’s possible for planes to fly through the eye of a hurricane.
Unsurprisingly, this is not done under normal circumstances for safety reasons.
Planes only fly through hurricanes for scientific research reasons.
Usually, only specialist bodies like the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration would fly a plane through a hurricane for scientific research.
Planes Won’t Take Off and Land During a Hurricane
Planes cannot safely take off during a hurricane.
A plane could easily be damaged by the hurricane and potentially crash.
Planes that took off before a hurricane appeared will continue to fly and reach an altitude where the hurricane will have no effect on the plane.
Planes cannot safely land during a hurricane, either.
The strong winds of a hurricane could easily impact a plane and cause it to crash. Instead, planes fly to the nearest safe airport and land there.
The Type of Hurricane Can Make a Difference
The type of hurricane affects whether planes can take off or land during it.
Pilots may be permitted to take off or land in a category 1 or category 2 hurricanes since they’re less dangerous, but taking off through a category 5 hurricane would be problematic.
Most planes can fly over most categories of hurricanes, but pilots almost always avoid them to prevent potential damage to the plane.
Airports Will Shut Down During a Hurricane
Airports routinely shut down during hurricanes, as the strong winds of hurricanes prevent safe takeoff and landing.
Additionally, hurricanes can cause infrastructure damage by blowing debris onto runways.
It’s also difficult to supply fuel to airports during hurricanes.
As a result, airports cannot perform any of their normal functions during a hurricane, so have no choice but to shut down.
Can Planes Fly Over Tropical Storms?
Most planes can fly over tropical storms.
Tropical storms mostly impact planes on the ground and have no reach at an altitude of 30,000 feet, which is the altitude most planes fly.
But planes won’t land or take off during a tropical storm.
Can Planes Fly in Thunderstorms?
Planes can fly in thunderstorms since they’re designed to be resistant to even the worst weather.
That being said, flying through thunderstorms causes severe turbulence and passenger discomfort. So, most airlines avoid flying through them.
- Most planes can fly over most hurricanes, as hurricanes primarily impact the ground and have little to no effect at cruising altitudes of 30,000 feet.
- However, flying over a hurricane is considered undesirable since it would make an emergency landing difficult.
- As a result, the vast majority of pilots will completely avoid flying over hurricanes, even if they are technically able to.
- The same principle applies to other bad weather, including thunderstorms and tropical storms.
- Planes also can’t safely take off or land during any of these bad weather events because of the risks.
Helen Krasner holds a PPL(A), with 15 years experience flying fixed-wing aircraft; a PPL(H), with 13 years experience flying helicopters; and a CPL(H), Helicopter Instructor Rating, with 12 years working as a helicopter instructor.
Helen is an accomplished aviation writer with 12 years of experience, having authored several books and published numerous articles while also serving as the Editor of the BWPA (British Women Pilots Association) newsletter, with her excellent work having been recognized with her nomination of the “Aviation Journalist of the Year” award.
Helen has won the “Dawn to Dusk” International Flying Competition, along with the best all-female competitors, three times with her copilot.