CHARLOTTE, N.C. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) — We know all this smoky air is not good for our lungs, but what about our aircraft?
Like us, aircraft engines breathe air to run at optimal performance.
“Suck, squeeze, bang and blow” is a catchy phrase commonly used to describe how a jet engine works.
Jet engines suck in air, then squeeze or compress it; then bang, or ignite it; and finally, blow it out, creating thrust.
So, air is the key player here. Typically, commercial airliners fly through mild and moderate smoke with no problems. Our air current conditions in Charlotte, while not ideal for people or planes, will not significantly degrade engine performance, according to engineers.
And what about that smell? Does it enter the aircraft passenger cabin? You may notice a slight smoky odor because cabin air is a mix of recirculated and outside air. The good news is it passes through HEPA filters within a few rounds of recirculation. Outside pollution or smoke that enters the cabin gets filtered out very quickly with the same type filters used in hospitals.
The residual smoke of the Canadian wildfires, now in our backyards and found throughout the East Coast, is not a significant hazard to airliners compared to volcanic ash.
The ingredients in wildfire smoke differ from abrasive volcanic ashes that are made up of rock fragments, minerals and volcanic glass. These damage engines and aircraft surfaces, and therefore, ground aircraft for safety reasons. Typically, wildfire smoke does not ground commercial operations unless the visibility drops too low — like in New York.
Officials at Charlotte Douglas International Airport report the smoke has had no significant impact on operations, although flights headed to the New York area can expect cancellations or delays.
Weather reports indicate visibility at Charlotte Douglas Wednesday ranged from 4 to 6 miles. Typically it exceeds 10. Pilots who fly by visual flight rules are required by federal aviation regulations to comply with a minimum of 3 miles visibility.
Airline pilots fly on instrument flight rules, where visibility can be as low as a half-mile. Their heads are typically glued to the gauges in the cockpit for guidance.