If you’ve ever wondered if planes can take off in the rain, the answer is yes.
For the most part, rainfall doesn’t impact a plane’s ability to fly or take off from the ground because modern planes are designed to withstand difficult weather conditions.
Rainfall also largely isn’t dangerous to planes.
That being said, in some cases, it makes sense not to fly during the rain, which we cover below.
Table of Contents
- 1 Light Rainfall
- 2 Heavy Rainfall
- 3 Small Planes Find it Harder to Take Off in the Rain
- 4 Over 50mm of Rain May Ground Flights
- 5 It’s Usually Safe to Take Off in the Rain
- 6 Is Rain More Dangerous for Planes or Pilots?
- 7 Air Accidents At Take Off Caused by Rain
Typically, light rain does not trouble aircraft. Most planes have advanced avionics to easily let planes climb to higher altitudes during light rain, even at night.
Light rain also doesn’t normally involve dangerous weather conditions like thunderstorms.
Rain is only dangerous for aircraft if it includes thunderstorms and strong winds.
Most planes are capable of taking off even in heavy rainfall, though heavy rainfall can be undesirable for planes to take off in.
While heavy rainfall itself normally does not threaten aircraft, it is often accompanied by other weather phenomena, like thunderstorms and fast winds, which can damage aircraft and make flying difficult.
While it’s not impossible for planes to take off during thunderstorms and fast winds, it is generally discouraged and avoided because of safety risks.
Aircraft also receive specific certifications for flying under difficult weather and require specialized equipment for preventing water from entering important components.
Small Planes Find it Harder to Take Off in the Rain
It’s more difficult for small planes to take off in the rain because poor visibility and strong winds have a higher potential of damaging them compared to larger planes.
Additionally, most small turboprop planes don’t have the equipment necessary for navigating through heavy rainfall.
Small planes also struggle with landing on wet runways.
That being said, some small private planes are fully equipped to take off and land under heavy rainfall.
These small planes are equipped with advanced avionics and braking systems that let them easily take off and land in the rain.
Large planes mostly don’t have any problems with taking off or landing under heavy rainfall.
Most large planes also are designed to take off in poor weather conditions.
Large planes use weather data from Air Traffic Control and advanced computer systems to guide pilots to easily take off and land in difficult weather conditions.
For this reason, large planes generally don’t have trouble landing or taking off even during poor visibility conditions.
Over 50mm of Rain May Ground Flights
How much rain is considered too much to take off in depends on the type of plane because rainfall impacts different planes differently.
As such, there is no standard figure for excess rainfall, but generally freezing rain over 50 mm is enough to ground most flights.
In some regions, especially if it regularly receives heavy rainfall, flights will still operate despite higher rainfall.
It’s Usually Safe to Take Off in the Rain
An airplane’s wings and engines lift the plane from the ground by altering the air’s direction and pressure.
As long as the air direction and pressure change in the desired way, aircraft can safely take off.
Generally, rainfall does not impact this process. For that reason, it’s generally safe for planes to take off during the rain.
Is Rain More Dangerous for Planes or Pilots?
Additionally, while it’s not common for airplanes to be damaged by rainfall, it is possible.
Most often, thunderstorms that accompany rainfall can damage an aircraft’s body and prevent it from properly taking off.
Many pilots can navigate during rainy conditions, as they have extensive experience and received the appropriate training.
In contrast, inexperienced pilots may face trouble during rainfall, as they might not have the experience and training needed to successfully fly in rainy conditions.
Most crashes that have been caused during rainfall have also been attributed to pilot error and lack of training and experience.
Air Accidents At Take Off Caused by Rain
There have been few plane crashes caused directly by rainfall.
Normally, airplane crashes that have been caused by rainfall included other factors like pilot error, thunderstorms, and mechanical failure.
Cubana de Aviación Flight 9046
Cubana de Aviación Flight 9046 crashed on 3rd of September in 1989 after taking off at José Martí International Airport.
The flight took off during heavy rainfall and fast winds of speeds up-to 30-50 miles per hour or 48-80km/h. 7The pilot attempted to gain speed by retracting the wing’s flaps to 15° from 30°.
Instead, this action resulted in the aircraft becoming unstable, and it crashed.
Aircraft investigators attributed the accident to meteorological conditions.
VASP Flight 210
VASP Flight 210 crashed shortly after take off from Sao Paulo during heavy rainfall and thunderstorms in 1986.
The flight collided with an embankment, resulting in one fatality.
The cause of the crash was attributed to the rainfall, fog, and the pilot’s unfamiliarity with the airport’s structure.
Another important factor was the lack of radar facilities in the airport.
This crash also highlighted to the world that take-offs during fog and in rainy conditions have the potential to crash planes.
In conclusion, yes., most planes in most circumstances can take off and land during rainfall.
Usually, rainfall itself doesn’t threaten aircraft, but accompanying weather phenomenon, like thunderstorms and strong winds, can damage airplanes.
That being said, there have been a few notable crashes caused by heavy rainfall and thunderstorm conditions that damaged aircraft.
See Also: Your Flight Disruption Survival Guide
Ella Dunham, a Freelance Travel Journalist and Marketing Manager, boasts an impressive career spanning eight years in the travel and tourism sectors.
Honored as one of "30 Under 30" by TTG Media (the world’s very first weekly travel trade newspaper), a "Tour Operator Travel Guru" and "Legend Award" winner, Ella is also a Fellow of the Institute of Travel, a Member of the Association of Women Travel Executives, has completed over 250 travel modules, and hosts travel-focused segments on national radio shows where she provides insights on travel regulations and destinations.
Ella has visited over 40 countries (with 10 more planned this year).