DISCUSSION: Every day around the world, millions and millions of people travel via private and/or commercial aircraft to get to various places they need to travel to for business or leisure. Thus, it goes without saying that the international aviation network is a complex organism which needs near-constant attention from global air traffic control networks. Whenever there are “disturbances” which impact any part of the global aviation network, there are always consequential “ripples” in the timing of departing and arriving aircraft and corresponding connecting flights. One such example of this issue has to do with the impact that sandstorms have on private and commercial aviation.
To elaborate on this issue, whenever airports across the Southwest United States, the Middle East, and other places around the world are impacted by sandstorms which are induced by stronger winds which push across desert or desert-like regions, there are some major issues which arise. First off, whenever sandstorms impact airports, there is a substantial impact on local and potentially regional visibility extent. For this reason, this makes the paths for departing and arriving aircraft much more dangerous since pilots of any aircraft will not be able to see critical airports markers and lights as they attempt to taxi to the runway or approaching the start of the runway.
Another issue when it comes to taking off or landing on a given runway within a progressing sandstorm is the fact that sandstorm will often bring with them very unpredictable wind flow patterns. Thus, the corresponding erratic wind speeds and directions within a given sandstorm has the potential to create incredibly hazardous cross-winds which can make the dangerous unpredictable wind flow regimes as well as the greatly reduced visibilities a seriously life-threatening situation when it comes to general aviation interests.
One of the other primary issues which can sometimes arise when it comes to sandstorm impacts on aviation is the inherent associated with damage to aircraft and aircraft engines. When sandstorms impact various sized aircraft either on the ground or even more so in the air, the high speed of the aircraft combined with the effective “pelting” of the sand particles on the fuselage, the wings, or even the engines of the aircraft can have a substantial impact on the physical integrity of the engine components which help to power major parts and functions of any aircraft. Depending on how the size of the sand particles are distributed within a given sandstorm, the fan blades of many turbofan engines can often be damaged by ingesting too much sand within a given sandstorm event. Thus, it goes without saying that sandstorms can have profound impacts on general aviation safety.
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© 2019 Meteorologist Jordan Rabinowitz