Commercial flights in the middle east: nighttime only?

A friend recently returned from a year-long tour of duty at a US military base in Kuwait. As part of her work, she traveled extensively in Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and other nearby countries. She said flights from commercial airports in many of these countries departed (and of course often landed) only at night time. What is the reason for this?

I am aware that wings produce less lift when the ambient density is low, which means an aircraft needs higher takeoff speed, and therefore more runway. Unfortunately low density also means low engine power, which means even more runway is required. I have heard of airports in the southwestern United States being closed on extremely hot days because of this, and so my first guess was that this was the reason, since many parts of the middle east have smokin’ hot daytime high temperatures, sometimes in excess of 110F. But she said the nighttime departures persisted even in the “winter,” when daytime highs were typically a much more reasonable 60-80F.

So what’s the Dope on middle-eastern night flights?

Not true. I have arrived and departed from Dubai, Jeddah and Istanbul in the daytime.

I’ve certainly seen hundreds of flights during the day land and depart while in Bahrain (off and on, from '98-'05). Not sure what she’s talking about.

Dubai and most Gulf airports are certainly busier at night than during the day, but I have flown into Kuwait, Doha, Bahrain, Muscat, Dubai and Sana’a during the day.

On the other had I have departed Dubai in the middle of the night 0200ish bound for the US, Seychelles, Mumbai, Colombo and Hong Kong.

Some of it has to do with time zones, it seems to be acceptable to the airlines to drop you into Dubai at 0230 but not into JFK at the same hour so flights to New York (for example) are scheduled for a good arrival time (and some airport close for noise regulations).

I’ve travelled to and from Dubai / Abu Dhabi extensively from Toronto, and I can say that on over a dozen flights from Abu Dhabi to Toronto, the flight always departed out of Abu Dhabi at approximately 1:50 to 2:50 AM. (This was the pre direct flight from Toronto to Dubai days)

2 month ago I flew the direct flight from Dubai to Toronto on Emirates, and that flight departed around 10am Dubai time.
I’m no expert on this subject but from a logical point of view, I believe the airlines try to schedule so people arrive at their destinations at a convenient time.

I have flown in and out of Tel Aviv at every time of day in every season, can’t say I’ve ever heard of planes not lifting off due to the heat. I think it’s more likely that they’re adapting to arrival times at the destination (or adapting to arrival time for the plane to return the next day).

I believe that airlines try to schedule their flights to optimize the equipment use, and only take into consideration when people depart or arrive as a function thereof. I also believe that they take into account local ordinances restricting night flights and noise and that puts more flights into the Middle East at night where those ordinances may be more lax than say, Switzerland, Germany or France.

Of course, I also believe in long, slow, deep, soft, wet kisses that last three days, but that’s the subject of another thread.

Just to add my two pennor’th.

I’ve flown in and out of various airports in the M.E. at all times of day so I think that the O.P.s friend has gained a false impression probably by coincidental timings for her personally.

The four times I’ve been to Dubai I’ve landed in the afternoon, to or from Delhi, Hong Kong, and London.

Just don’t try that in public in some Middle Eastern countries.

I think it’s this sort of thing that might have given the OP’s friend the impression. Because of time zones and flight timing, passengers from the Middle East headed back to North America usually leave in the middle of the night.

Military flights take off from commercial airports sometimes, but they only fly at night. If your friend was entering Iraq, or the pilots were coming from Iraq, or the planes were on a schedule that put them through Iraq, or anything else having to do with Iraq then they’d only fly at night. The reason is obvious- the pilots have NVGs. The bad guys don’t. My guess is that her night flights were a bleed-over from Iraq policy.

I used to land the choppers (with glow sticks, not from the pilot seat) in Kuwait and Iraq. Since we had to work nights for the Iraq flights, the airport/helipad was only operating at night. So even if you were going from Kuwait to Dubai, you were only flying at night.

I’m sorry, but how does that makes sense?

Odd question.

Absolutely, although it does seem that European carrier long-haul flights in Africa and Middle East (those scheduled for North America or Asia connections) leave at beastly hours. All about the equipment use. Atlhough I have understood Americans on the government account have to fly by US carrier or associated…

And in lots of African countries you can get yourself in a right spot of trouble as well. What this has to do with the OP escapes.

See post #7, the one quoted. :smiley:

S’truth. About twenty years ago the temperature at Sky Harbor airport reached 122-F, a record that still stands. Before a commercial aircraft can take off, it has to be proved to the FAA that it physically can. There are charts for each type of aircraft that calculate for this load at this altitude at this temperature, you need x-feet of runway to take off safely. If the runway is less than x-plus something, you sit or lighten the load. Unfortunately, the FAA’s charts topped out at 120 degrees so it couldn’t be proved the heavies could actually lift off in the allotted length available – extrapolation was not allowed.

So the heavies sat until it cooled back down to where they were on the charts again. I dunno if general aviation also had to sit it out. Since then, the charts have been extended to 130 degrees.

It would be more accurate to say “proved to the FAA’s standards” - the FAA doesn’t get directly involved with each decision to take off.

Basically, if you are a bad guy with a .50 cal machine gun or a Stinger launcher or some such camped out near an airfield hoping to bring down a plane carrying soldiers or supplies (or whatever, depending on how picky you happen to be about these things), it’s easier to do when you can see them. It’s hard enough to hit a target only a couple hundred feet long a few thousand meters away when it’s pushing 300 knots and clawing for altitude when you can see it. Much harder at night.

Of course, it’s a bit tricker for the pilots taking off and landing, but if they have night vision goggles or FLIR equipment in their aircraft, this problem is reduced for them. Now, the risk varies from one place to the next (and I imagine is almost nonexistent in Saudi Arabia, compared to Iraq or Afghanistan), but if the air traffic is going in and out of those places, that’s going to affect when they go in and out of nearby countries.

Then again, it’s also possible your friend was confused or misinformed. That happens a lot too.