A U.S. Gulfstream G550 gets de-iced before departing Alaska in January. | Sgt. Steve Cortez / Public Domain
Every major airline including Delta, American, United, Jet Blue, and Southwest has grounded nearly 2,000 flights on Wednesday, January 30th, 2019, due to bitterly cold weather.
With temperatures in the midwest and east coast reaching nearly record-breaking lows, some counties are reporting -40 degrees Fahrenheit. Add to that winds of 30 mph in North Dakota for example, and the windchill factor makes the air feel like -75 degrees.
Many people believe that the flights are grounded because aircraft are freezing, which is partially true. With snowfall and condensation, parked aircraft do tend to freeze, but de-icing crews make sure the aircraft is ready to go when it needs to.
It’s the crews that are the problem.
Many travelers forget that ground crews are exposed to the elements too. Marshallers, luggage handlers and the above mentioned de-icing crews are the ones outside making sure flights are operating smoothly. With such low temperatures, frostbite can set in in mere minutes, if not seconds in cases like North Dakota.
Visibility is a factor too, as strong winds whip up snow off the ground and make for dangerous conditions for both the pilots and everyone on the ground. You can see news coverage of this polar blast below.