Secrets about flying: this is what you did not know!
More than ever before, flying is extremely popular. It’s the ticket to freedom, the way to move around the globe and meet new people and discover different cultures. I have taken many airplanes in my life, and I can’t say that I’m nervous when I fly. However, I always wonder about how these big metal birds can stay up in the air. I mean, I know how it works, physically, but it still remains something dreamy, something that appeals to the imagination. In the exact moment I took the picture above, the one above the clouds, I decided to look up some facts about airplanes, and bundle it in a post. There are many interesting facts and secrets about flying: some of them worth knowing, others perhaps you would have preferred not to know. But we’re going to tell you anyway!
Some secrets about flying: interesting facts
- The airplane captain has the same power as a ship captain, and that’s quite a bit. The pilot in command can handcuff a trouble-making passenger and hand them over to the police to be formally arrested. They can also write fines and take the will of dying passengers.
- Often, you will be sharing a flight with organs or other human remains. And they’re not necessarily in the cargo hold… If you find a locked cooler in the overhead cupboards, there’s a reasonable chance that it contains human organs being transported for medical or scientific use.
- Airlines practically always overbook. It’s how they ensure they make money, because many people don’t even show up on flights. Usually it doesn’t cause any problems, but every once in a while, more people than expected actually do show up for the flight, which means some travelers are going to be proposed not to take the flight. When that happens airliners often offer passengers a voucher in exchange for staying at the place of origin. Always refuse to volunteer and insist on a cash payment instead. If you’re involuntarily denied boarding, you’re entitled to a cash payment, directly. Refund can be up to 400 percent of the value of the one-way fare! These secrets about flying can spare you some extra bucks!
- Planes are struck by lightning all the time. Even more, it’s the planes themselves that sometimes trigger lightning strikes, when they’re traveling through a heavily charged part of clouds. There’s no reason to worry: the last crash due to a lightning strike was in 1967.
- There is a trick to get some more arm-room: a great hack for a window seat passenger. On the underside of the armrest, there is usually a button right by the joint of the arm. Push it, lift it up and you’ll have more room to enjoy!
- A plane does not need two engines to fly. It’s been the reality that most commercial aircrafts don’t actually need two engines to stay airborne, one engine will work just as well.
- You’re breathing engine air! The air you breathe on an airplane is actually compressed air, coming from the engines. Technically, you’re breathing air from the engine’s compressors, not the engine’s exhaust ofcourse. On their website Boeing explains that the air coming from the compressors warms ad pressurizes air from outside the plane. This air is then circulated into the cabin.
- Hard plane landings in hard weather are done on purpose. Flying in stormy weather can be nerve-wracking even for the most experienced pilot. Most people would expect the pilot to be careful at touchdown when the runway is wet or slippery. But, the plane needs to land hard when there is water on the ground to prevent hydroplaning. There are no secrets about flying for a well experienced pilot!
- You can be upgraded to first class after takeoff. It’s not don very often though. Partly because on some airlines a report explaining why needs to be filled in. Partly because there is a meal foreseen for you, and partly because the forward cabins are often full.
Some secrets about flying that regard your safety
- You probably noticed that the lights are dimmed just before landing and during take-off. In an evacuation situation, the dimmed lights will allow your eyes to adjust more easily when you have to rush outside. It makes it easier for you to see your surroundings and escape safely.
- Always pay attention how the oxygen mask work. You may not it, but you have around 15 minutes worth of oxygen in a plane when disaster strikes. That’s enough time for the pilot to fly back to a lower altitude, where you can breathe easily. At altitude however, you only have about 15 to 20 seconds to secure your mask before you pass out. So when the flight attendant says to first put on your own mask before others, she’s dead serious!
- Always switch your electronics to airplane mode. This is not “a secret about flying”, but a lot of people intend to ignore it. It’s not going to confuse electronic instruments, but they will cause interference in the cockpit. Hearing the interference of hundreds of cellphones can cause the pilots to loose focus, or make them miss important communication.
- You will notice, when you pay attention, there are hold-on handles in the cabin door, just inside the plane. They are grab handles, so that in a panicked emergency evacuation, the flight attendants manning the exit door can grab them not to be pushed outside by panicking passengers.
- Never trust lavatory locks. What most people don’t know is that the lavatories can be unlocked from the outside. There is a mechanism, usually behind the no-smoking-sign, that allows flight attendants to unlock the door. It’s not there for fun by the way, it’s in case someone looses conscience, or in case of illegal behaviour inside the toilet.
Some secrets about flying you do not want to know
- The pilot might be asleep during the flight. It is allowed for pilots to work uninterrupted for 16 hours. That’s quite a lot, especially if you know that they are responsible for bringing hundreds of passengers safe to their destination. During long-haul flights, the co-pilot can take over the controls so the main pilot can take a short nap. Nevertheless pilots do admit falling both asleep at the same time sometimes, while the aircraft is on automatic.
- Be careful with water that doesn’t come out of a bottle. You should also stay away from coffee, tea, and other drinks that use water. The reason? The holding tanks for water are usually as old as the plane and they aren’t cleaned regularly, if at all. Stick with bottled water, soda, or juice; if you must have coffee, hit the Starbucks in the concourse before boarding. Needless to say, you shouldn’t fill up your water bottle from the lavatory tap.
- Headphones aren’t as new as they seem, even the headphones that come wrapped. Airliners have the headphones cleaned and re-packaged. We can understand ofcourse, throwing all those earbuds away would leave a gigantic ecologic footprint! Although I have my own set I always carry with me when I travel.
- The pilot and co-pilot aren’t allowed to share a meal and they are never given the same food when they receive their meals. It’s is a measure that airliners take to prevent food poisoning.
All these things being said, there is nothing to worry about: the fact remains that traveling by air is statistically the safest mode of transportation around. The odds of being in a crash or a terrorist attack are only about 1 in 7 million. Much less than when engaging yourself in daily traffic…
Have a safe flight everyone!