Anyone who has been on an airplane knows that feeling. What was that bump? Where is that rattling coming from? The pilot sounds exhausted … what if he falls asleep! The good news is we are all in this together. The bad news is you are not going to want to hear this. That bump was turbulence and it’s getting worse – that rattle may be the engine and actually, there is a good chance your pilot did just fall asleep.
Don’t freak out, but here’s what didn’t make our list. Did you know that lavatories unlock from the outside? (Hmm, may want to consider that “Mile High Club” experience.) The baggage handlers don’t care about your “fragile” sticker; in fact, it may make them throw your bag a little bit harder into the cargo pit. Also, if you believe flying with a major airline ensures you have a seasoned veteran in the cock pit, think again, because major airlines use subcontractors (meaning less experience, training and pay). Wait, that didn’t even make the list?
Reading the list below is not going to help anyone with fear of flying and it’s also not “germ friendly.” Okay, grab a bag of peanuts, snuggle up with a used blanket and if you hear snoring while you are reading, don’t worry – completely normal! Here are 15 crazy airplane facts that will scare the hell out of you!
15. The Child Seat Is Not Optional
If your child is less than two years of age, you have the option to let them sit on your lap. If there is major turbulence, or worse, a crash with survivors, there is a good chance your child isn’t going to make it because no matter what you think, your arms are not going to be strong enough. Forget about adrenaline or “Dad strength” – neither is going to help and you are endangering your child.
Ask yourself this question: Would you drive a car with an infant on your lap? Of course not, so why would you take the risk in an airplane? Don’t get me wrong, I get it – it’s cheaper not to buy another seat and a giant pain to carry along a car seat or device to buckle your child into. My advice is to not fly until your child is big enough to comfortably sit by himself without a car seat.
14. Each Day Turbulence Is Getting Worse
If it feels like flights are getting rougher with more bumps, you are not just “getting old” – it is getting worse. Statistics say that medium to extreme type turbulence is going to increase up to 40% by 2050. This is due to the levels of carbon dioxide in the air that keeps rising. Al Gore was right, folks! Our pollution is making everything worse. Blame the manufacturing industry, increase travel or the 80s hair bands; regardless, the air is making it harder for planes to fly.
What can you do? Wearing your seat belt is a good place to begin. Most non-fatal injuries in flight are due to turbulence and most of those occur when the passenger is not buckled in. Oh, and if you’re the person usually sitting next to me “white knuckling” it through bouts of turbulence, please look into train schedules next time. You’re freaking me out!
13. The Plane Is Disgustingly Filthy
Have you ever waited for a plane to arrive and witnessed the deplaning and staff changes prior to finally being able to board? Airlines cram more flights into their daily schedule and certain tasks such as cleaning the cabin have been eliminated. Now is not a good time to remember that the flu and cold viruses can live on surfaces for days. Let’s establish rule #1: Do not put your hand in seat pockets. Not only are you touching germs, but there’s a chance a sick passenger left you a treat.
Want some more fun facts? Did you know that over 50% of trays found are polluted with bugs? Did you know those blue blankets are reused and not washed for up to a month? Did you know those headphones that are all nicely wrapped up are also not new? Did you know the water in the lavatory probably contains parasites that have built up tolerances to cleaners? It’s amazing any of us are alive after flying!
12. Pilots Fall Asleep at the Controls
Somewhere around 50% of pilots have admitted to falling asleep while piloting a passenger plane. I get it. Once I walk onto a plane, I’m sleepy and often can fall asleep right through takeoff. I’m told I’m lucky, but I do understand how planes can make people tired. But I’m not a pilot! If I opened up a pilot user manual, the first thing it should say is “Please stay awake during your flight.”
I know, you are thinking this is pretty bad, but it gets worse … so much worse. Of those 50% that have admitted to falling asleep, a third of them have woken up from their slumber and found their co-pilot sleeping! Seriously, what’s going on here? Sometimes pilots get caught in a bar having a beer prior to working. I think I’d rather have a pilot with a couple of Miller’s in him than a pilot that naps on the job.
11. If A Plane Catches Fire You Have 90 Seconds To Escape
They might as well just say “If a plane catches fire you are going to die” because that’s the reality of the situation.
The minute and a half comes from research that says that’s how long it takes for a fire to spread throughout the plane. My oven takes longer to pre-heat … what exactly are we doing in these fireballs in waiting? To give you a little extra time, you will want to secure a seat in the exit row. Of course, the expectation is that you will help people, but let’s face it – it’s going to take me at least FIVE minutes to get that door open. Once again, if a plane catches fire, you are going to die.
10. Pilot Power
Being a pilot means more than just flying a plane. You are responsible for warning signs of terrorism, potential danger and overall safety of the aircraft. Given this, it still may surprise the average flyer to know that a pilot has a lot of authority once the doors are closed. In addition to informing you on the weather, he can also arrest you.
It’s true; a pilot can arrest a passenger as well as write fines for wrongdoings. He can also take the will of someone that is dying. That’s a pretty creepy power, but I guess it’s understood given the amount of time someone could spend on a plane. My two cents is enough negative energy – let’s make all pilots capable of marrying passengers as well. In fact, let’s make it mandatory that every flight has at least one marriage. That would make flying much more enjoyable. Who doesn’t like an impromptu wedding?
9. Non-Bottled Water: Just Say No
This one may seem logical, but you really want to be extra careful with this one. If the aircraft brings around a tray of cups filled with water on ice, it may look tempting, but please, just say no. You see, the restroom water supply and water used for coffee (and drinking if the airline doesn’t have bottles) is located just a few feet away. Are they separate? Yes, but it’s not too far, either!
There are literally a million ways to get sick on a plane, so drinking bottled water is a sure fire way to avoid being ill. Feel free to take it a step further if you are the paranoid type and don’t even trust the bottles. You can always buy overpriced bottles of water at the airport and then lug them on.
8. Landings Are Controlled Crashes
Apparently, this is how a pilot refers to landings. That’s an insane way to approach landings, or life in general. Let’s keep it positive, and please, let’s not use the word “crash,” especially when discussing landings.
We have all had those descents, the type where the wind is blowing the plane all over the place and it’s “bumpy,” to say the least. But most of us still have confidence in the pilots. Now if you ever think “Wow, that was a harsh landing,” you may be right and it may have been intentional. When runways are slick from snow or have a lot of water on them, an airplane needs to land hard in order to get through the layer of water, avoiding slipping, sliding or gliding.
7. You Have Only 15 Seconds To Put On Your Oxygen Mask
These days, most of us turn off the flight attendants during their pre-flight announcements. Next time you may want to pay a little more attention to the instructions. When it comes to those oxygen masks, there are a couple points they are leaving out. First is that you only have approximately 15 minutes of oxygen from the point the mask is pulled down. Secondly, at altitude, you only have 15 seconds to put on your mask before you will pass out. This is why it is important to always put your mask on before helping others, especially children. You are no good to anyone if you are passed out.
The good news is that the 15 minutes of oxygen is more than enough time for a pilot to bring a plane down to a lower altitude, where everyone can breathe easier. I mean, let’s face it, if the oxygen masks come down, you’ll be hoping for some good news.
6. Lights Are Turned Off At Landing In Case Of Evacuation
When a plane begins its final descent, the cabin lights are dimmed. The reason for this is that in case you need to evacuate, your eyes won’t have any problem adjusting to darkness. It’s hard to imagine how “eye focus” is so high on the list, considering you are probably dealing with a crash, fire or something worse!
The plus to knowing this information is that when the lights are dimmed, you can always tell the guy next to you who insists on keeping his reading light on that he should turn it off. They will either turn off their light or quietly be concerned – either way it’s a win-win, assuming he was annoying in the first place.
5. Your Flight Is (Probably) Carrying Human Organs
Almost every domestic flight is carrying human organs. If you have a window seat and see the baggage handlers loading the plane, you should look for long boxes. They are even labeled with “head,” which probably doesn’t matter to the baggage handler. This may creep out a lot of people, but organ donation is a good thing and saves many, many lives.
What if the bodies came to life and took over the plane? That’s right, I’m pitching Zombie Plane! I’m guessing Nic Cage definitely wants to be involved. Now, I’m talking old-school, throwback Nic Cage, not strange, modern day Nic Cage. First scene: the zombies eat through the plane. Second scene: the zombies secure the cabin. Third scene: Cage fights off the zombies and ends up flying the plane to safety….and CUT!
4. Warm Weather Does Not Equal Smooth Flying
You probably think about the weather when flying, especially if the forecast calls for rain, snow or high winds. We know these conditions can ground a plane or make for a rough flight full of turbulence. How about hot weather? Yes, even nice weather causes problems for planes. The issue is that planes struggle to take off due to the air being so thin. This information doesn’t really make you feel great inside, does it?
This is most concerning given vacations are typically taken during the summer months, when the temperature is warmest. Rain is always a problem for both travel as well as landing, snow can strand you in an airport for days and now the heat can cause issues on take-off? Not leaving a lot of options. I guess this is why people love San Diego, where it’s clear and 70 degrees just about every day. Dry and not too hot!
3. Lightning Does Strike Planes
For most commercial jets, it is estimated that on average, each will be struck by lightning once a year. Most of the time this occurs while traveling through storm clouds. Good news for smaller planes is that they are struck less due to their size, as well as the ability to avoid poor weather.
If your plane is hit by lightning, you may see a flash and even hear a loud noise. However, almost all lightning strikes are harmless. The lightning will “affix” itself to the plane and eventually detach itself once it finds something else to attach to. The flickering of lights is typically reported by the pilots, as they essentially travel through the lightning. The last confirmed plane crash due to lightning goes all the ways back to 1967, when lightning hit a fuel tank and the plane exploded. Since protection has been added and there are many tests to ensure this particular scenario never unfolds again.
2. Stay Close To The Exit Row
Should your plane crash (and let’s face it, we haven’t put your worries at ease here) the statistics show that your chance of surviving greatly increases if you are within five rows of the exit row. This has to do with the evacuation procedure and the closer you are, the better your chances. Some view the exit row as just more leg room, but clearly there is a reason it is called the exit row.
Another trick on how to increase your survival rate due to a plane crash is to count the number of rows between you and the exit row. In case of heavy smoke in the cabin, you will be able to count the rows and know which one is the exit row. Please don’t do this during the boarding process if it is going to slow down people behind you. Also, you may not want to let people what you are doing.
1. When A Plane Crash Will Occur
If you are a “bad flyer” and really want to know where to focus your anxiety, here it is. The three minutes right after takeoff and the eight minutes prior to final landing are the most dangerous and most likely time for a plane to crash. These 11 minutes are when crashes tend to occur. How often you ask? How about 80% of the crashes – that’s a lot! This is why the flight crew focuses on takeoff and landings.
It’s okay, though, because you will already have your seatbelt on, bottled water in hand and know how far you are from the exit row. At some point, it’s all fate, so seriously, you can drop the anxiety – it’s not really going to change anything. That’s the thing about flying, you don’t have control so even though it’s “safer” than driving, it’s easier to be scared of what you don’t know and can’t control.