Ask the Captain: Why do pilots burn off fuel and what’s with the turbulence in Las Vegas?

Answer: This happens occasionally. On some flights when the passenger load and cargo load is heavy, the flight is planned to land at the maximum landing weight. If they wind up burning less than what was forecast, then the pilots have to burn off the excess fuel to reduce the weight. Lowering the landing gear and to extend the flight accomplishes the needed fuel burn.

Answer: I suspect you are feeling the effects of thermal heating causing turbulence. In places like Las Vegas where there are mountains and high heating, turbulence is more common.  Usually, this occurs at lower altitudes although mountain waves can occur at cruise altitudes.

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