Here are six nifty facts about flying that I found interesting and that you may not have previously known:
- A standard Boeing 747 aircraft can travel only 0.2 miles per gallon (about 0.8 km per liter). That might sound very inefficient, but if you think about it as mileage per passenger (this plane can hold well over 500), then it’s a completely different story.
- Ever wonder why we put up our window shades and are asked to put our seats into the upright position prior to landing? It’s not to get ready for the next flight, as some passengers believe. The real reason, it seems (and this also is the same for seats upright during takeoff), is for evacuation and safety purposes. Many airlines don’t have the “shades up” rule, but the ones that do are for the cabin crew to be able to assess and spot and potentially debilitating instances on or around the plane. But, it only takes literally a split second to shove the shade up! True, but it takes many seconds for the eyes to adjust to the brightness or darkness on the other side of the shade, which could play a big role. The “seats up” rule is for two reasons, I’ve been told: 1) if there is a sudden landing or deceleration, the passengers’ heads are already positioned close enough to the seat in front, reducing impact somewhat, and 2) if there would be an evacuation of some sort, passenger movement is not impeded by angled seats. This is why emergency exit row seats are fixed and cannot recline.
- An airplane does not have to leave on time for the flight to be “on time.” The only thing that matters is when the flight arrives at the gate. Flights that have consistent delays may pad their flight time, allowing for more time to arrive at the gate, a tactic that airlines all over seem to be in favor of. There is usually a 14-minute window at the gate that allows a plane to still be considered “on time.”
- Planes do not avoid the Bermuda Triangle. Though over a thousand planes have been reported to go down and/or missing in the area, pilots do not avoid going over the area for its reputation alone. Doing so would necessitate a 1,800 mile (2,900 km) detour.
- Sometimes the seat belt signs overhead will light up at times other than takeoff, landing, and turbulence. The most interesting time, in my opinion, is when the pilot needs to step outside of the cockpit to use the restroom. Passengers must all remain seated, is the thought here, and a cabin crewmember even guards the cockpit door to make sure that no one tries to commandeer the plane.
- Oxygen masks don’t necessarily mean something is drastically wrong. If a plane loses cabin pressure, oxygen masks may come down to help passengers and crew breathe more easily. At a plane’s cruising altitude, the oxygen is so thin that a normal person may pass out within 15 to 30 seconds. A plane cabin is pressurized to about a 6,000 to 8,000 ft altitude, to allow people on board to breathe comfortably. The oxygen in the masks will usually last for upwards of 10 minutes, which should allow the pilot to descend down to a safer breathing altitude.