Millions of people travel on commercial flights every day. Although soaring through the sky at hundreds of miles an hour in a metal winged tube may not seem like the safest way to get from one place to another, the men and women who work onboard these flights are highly trained. They’re prepared to handle scenarios you may not even think could take place on a commercial flight. You’re in capable hands… but that’s not all.
Airline employees are also privy to all kinds of things that happen behind the scenes… things that the public would have no idea about unless a pilot revealed some secrets about their work. Luckily, that’s exactly what they did! Check out these 20 little-known facts about flying straight from the pilots and flight attendants who work the skies!
1. A plane is similar to a seesaw in that the front and rear ends experience the most bumpiness throughout a ride, even if the plane encounters little turbulence throughout its trip. Grab a seat near the wings in the center for the smoothest ride possible.
2. Sometimes when you purchase a ticket online for a specific airline, you’ll end up on a plane with a similar name painted on it, but in fact, it’s actually the regional airline instead. Even though they’ll get you to your destination as safely as possible, they aren’t held to the same safety standards as the major names.
3. If you’re the kind of person who gets nervous while flying, pilots will tell you to book a morning flight as opposed to an afternoon or evening one. Throughout the day, the ground heats up, and that causes more turbulent air and a greater chance of thunderstorms.
4. Pilots use code phrases to indicate to the passengers what’s happening with the plane or weather. These phrases are carefully selected to avoid inducing fear. For example, a pilot will never say, “The visibility out there is zero,” which can be a terrifying thought. Instead, they’ll say, “There’s some fog in the area.” That sounds much more manageable!
5. For all those people who attempt to land themselves in the elite “mile-high club,” you might want to watch out. The bathrooms can actually be opened from the outside even if they’re locked from the inside. It’s a safety precaution, so all those passengers feeling “frisky” might want to hold off until landing.
6. There’s a very specific reason cell phones aren’t supposed to be used during a flight. They can actually cause false readings in the cockpit that give the pilots the illusion they’re flying at a higher elevation than they actually are, and that’s a huge problem when trying to coordinate a landing!
7. Many pilots find it strange that so many people are afraid of turbulence. According to them, it’s nearly impossible for turbulence to cause a crash. Pilots don’t avoid turbulence because it’s dangerous; they steer clear of it because it’s just flat-out annoying.
8. In recent years, the Department of Transportation has placed such importance on arriving on time that, unless a life-or-death situation is occurring onboard, flights are rarely ever delayed anymore. In fact, many airlines adjust their flight arrival times so they can have a better record of on-time arrivals.
9. When you think of safety equipment on a plane, you might imagine large, complex devices meant to support the engines and the fuselage. However, many airports find simple duct tape to be a perfectly acceptable way to patch up any small breaks or seal up any visible gaps in the metal.
10. Flying through thunderstorms can be a frightening experience for everyone onboard, passengers and crew alike. What most pilots don’t tell you is during a thunderstorm, lightening usually strikes the plane at least once! However, planes are built to take the impact, and they won’t suddenly fall out of the sky if struck.
11. In movies, television shows, and comics, pilots are always shown wearing their iconic hats with their headsets arching over them. According to several commercial airline pilots, however, they’re rarely ever worn, seeing as they don’t really serve a purpose.
12. Pilots have a grueling schedule, and sometimes they work for as long as 16 hours at a time. That’s longer than most truck drivers work in a single run! The difference is that truck drivers can simply pull over at a highway stop and catch up on sleep; pilots have to wait it out until they land.
13. Many people think if they get sick after a flight, it’s because of the time-zone or the cabin pressure changes throughout the journey. However, it’s usually because of the germs on the tray tables and reclining buttons they come into contact with.
14. The seat belt light will almost always remain on for the passengers as a safety precaution, but not everyone follows suit. However, if you hear the pilot ask the staff to buckle up, it means serious turbulence is ahead.
15. Flying a plane takes plenty of skill; pilots go through intense training to ensure they can get people from one place to another safely. However, a true test of a pilot’s skills is in the landing. A super-smooth landing is always the result of an exceptional pilot.
16. There are certain airports where pilots hate landing. Jackson Hole in Wyoming; John Wayne Airport in Orange County, California; and Chicago Midway in Chicago are difficult because the runways are so short, so landings are almost always bumpy.
17. It might seem like a career in the aviation industry would be lucrative considering the insane amount of responsibility it carries, but most pilots don’t make anywhere near exorbitant salaries. On average, pilots pull in about $75,000 a year. Their salaries can increase over time, however.
18. One pilot said that, often, airlines will pressure pilots into carrying the least amount of fuel they can to save money. This often means that when a plane hits a thunderstorm and faces delays, pilots have to land at alternate airports to refuel.
19. There have been some situations where planes have landed on bodies of water due to engine malfunctions. Many people think the term for this emergency procedure is a “water landing.” In reality, there’s no such thing as a water landing; it’s actually just called “crashing into the ocean,” but pilots won’t tell the public that.
20. Laptops are one of the pieces of technology many people bring onto planes, but the crew encourages you, if not mandates you, to stow them away during the flight. This isn’t because the devices interfere with the pilot’s cockpit readings, though. It’s because in the event of extreme turbulence, laptops suddenly become projectiles!
It’s amazing to think of all the things that happen during a flight to help us safely arrive at our destinations. Flying truly is the safest, and most unique, way to travel!
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