When we were children, each of us at one time looked at an airplane and thought to ourselves, “How can such a huge machine fly?” Now that we’re adults, we know at least something about the answer. But the nature of airplane travel continues to intrigue many people.
We put together a selection of the most interesting facts about air travel that you almost certainly knew nothing about.
1. Airplanes can withstand lightning strikes
According to statistics, ever year airplanes are struck by lightning. These incidents usually occur without any dangerous consequences because modern airplanes have a special coating that protects them from lightning’s hazardous effects.
2. The safest seat in an airplane doesn’t exist
The results of research carried out by TIME show that the likelihood of surviving an airplane accident is higher if the passenger is sitting in the aft part of the plane. However, according to data from the US Federal Aviation Administration, there’s no such thing as a safe seat in an airplane. In an emergency situation, there are always variables that cannot be taken into account in planning.
3. Some airplanes have secret compartments for the cabin crew
On long-haul flights, members of the crew might have to work for as many as 16 hours. To allow them to catch some rest, some planes have small sleeping areas for 6-10 people.
Want to know what they look like? Take a look at the photographs here that we published earlier.
4. If one engine fails, an airplane can still reach its destination using only the other
The idea that a plane’s engine might fail is terrifying for any would-be passenger. But modern airplanes are ready to deal with this eventuality. Moreover, their routes are designed in such a way that if one engine fails they can fly to the nearest airport on the remaining one.
5. Why the lights are dimmed and window blinds have to be raised during takeoff and landing
When a plane takes off or heads in to land during periods of darkness, the lights are always dimmed. This is done to ensure that, in the event of an emergency evacuation, the passengers and crew are adjusted to the darkness. This, in turn, allows them to move more quickly.
The window blinds are meant to be kept open for the same reason. The passengers will get used to the natural light outside the aircraft, whilst at the same time this allows the cabin crew to evaluate the external situation and work out on which side it will be safer to carry out any possible evacuation.
6. It’s forbidden to smoke in an airplane. So why is there an ashtray in the toilet?
Smoking onboard an aircraft is strictly forbidden, but there’s an ashtray in every toilet. Why? Those who set the rules for air travel suspected that some passengers might still try to smoke a cigarette in secret. To make sure that cigarette butts weren’t thrown into the toilet, thereby risking a fire, they had ashtrays installed in airplane toilets. But that doesn’t mean it’s worth trying to use it. All toilets are equipped with smoke alarms, and any passenger who breaks the rule will risk both a fine and being banned from using the airline ever again.
7. Why does airplane food lack taste?
Airplane food often turns out to not be very tasty, but this isn’t the fault of the airlines. The low amount of moisture and the pressure within the cabin reduce the sensitivity of our taste receptors. Research has shown that we lose our ability to taste sweet and salty foods by 30% in such conditions.
8. Why is there a hole between the window panes?
The window in an airplane is actually made up of three different acrylic panels. Because of the difference in temperature at different heights, the panels have to be able to withstand a huge amount of pressure. The little hole between the middle and outer panels allows for the pressure between the panes to be regulated, thereby averting the possibility of it shattering. It also prevents the window from freezing over or steaming up.
You can find out more details about the idea behind it here.
9. The onboard oxygen masks are only meant to work for 15 minutes
When the pressure drops within the cabin, every passenger needs to use an oxygen mask. But few people realize that these can only be used for a maximum of 15 minutes. This is the amount of time that is normally required in order to bring the airplane down to a height where the passengers can breathe normally without the masks.
10. The tires of planes cannot burst at landing
The tires on a plane’s wheels can withstand a load of 38 tons. They can carry out more than 500 landings at a speed of 280 km/h before they need to be replaced. The pressure inside them is approximately six times higher than the pressure in automobile tires. When the time comes to replace them, they’re removed using a jack in exactly the same way as with a car.
11. Why planes leave white traces in the sky
Those white lines are simply the result of condensation. During a flight, the plane’s engines release water vapor, which dissipates into the cold atmosphere. The result is the white traces that you see. It works on the exact same principle as when you can see your own breath in cold weather.