With recent incidents involving airlines, many people are curious about what actually goes on before passengers even enter the plane. With financial constraints and limitations posed by engineering restrictions, designing and operating a plane is a compromise between a multitude of factors. Here are some surprising facts that many people didn’t know about airliners.
1. “Minimal Fuel” Isn’t That Bad
When we hear about the “minimal fuel” policy, we immediately imagine the plane is filled with just enough fuel to land and is running on an empty tank by the time it lands. This is not true, and it is actually a lot better than it sounds. For one, carrying less fuel means the plane has to use carry less weight and this automatically makes it consume less fuel. Another reason is that in case of a crash, there will be relatively less damage if the plane catches fire. Besides that planes have contingency fuel to allow the plane to reach a safe landing in the case of emergency.
2. Pilot’s Mobile Devices Have Caused Accidents
We all remember the day when Personal Electronic Devices were banned on every airline. Now the world is seeing a slow shift in the opposite direction. But mobile phones have caused many airline accidents and in most cases, the phone was in the possession of someone in the cockpit. The landing of an airplane is probably the most difficult part of a flight, and that is when the phone is most likely to catch a signal, meaning it can distract a pilot and cause an accident. Such a case occurred when a pilot’s phone caused him to forget to deploy the landing gear.
3. Mobile Devices Have No Effect On The Aircraft’s Systems
There are certain circumstances when an airplane uses precise radio signals to help navigate through the final phases of a flight. It was once believed that a mobile phone could disrupt the signals and cause the plane to crash but we now know that is not possible. The radio signals are sensitive but it is not possible to bring down a multi-million dollar piece of machinery with a $10 dollar gadget.
4. Aircraft Safety Certification Tests Involve Bribery
When safety officers conducted safety tests after a ground fire, which caused an unimaginable loss of life in Manchester, UK, they had a hard time recreating the panic and chaos that actually occurs in emergency situations. To get more accurate results and find out what actually went wrong in the fire, they offered the first few people to escape the plane an amount of £20. People rushed and fought for the cash as they would in a real situation and that is how aircraft certification is pretty much done.
5. Not All Escape Slides Can Be Used As Rafts
While there are some flights that have escape slides that can also keep passengers dry by doubling as rafts, not all flights have that option. Some only offer the slides as a flotation device, but it can tip over if you try to climb onto it. The slides that can double as rafts are much heavier than the simpler versions and so are only used on flights that fly over water. Other flights over land or near the coastline only feature the plain rafts to save weight.
6. Oxygen Masks Don’t Last As Long As You’d Expect
The oxygen in the oxygen masks that drop in front of us during emergency situations do not have a limitless supply of oxygen. The oxygen is also produced by a lump of metal that is ignited when we pull down the masks, an excess of oxygen is produced, more than the metal can burn. These masks will give you about 12 minutes of oxygen but it will be smoky, hot and have a bad taste and smell. The mask is also not filtered so if the cabin is filled with fumes, it is not of much use.
7. Explosive Decompression Is A Lot Worse Than You Think
The air at high altitude is so thin that your lungs would only be able to supply your brain with enough oxygen to keep you awake for approximately 30–45 seconds.While one minute might seem like a long time, the side effects of lack of oxygen to the brain (hypoxia) make it all the more important for you to get supplementary oxygen as soon as possible. That is why when the cabin crew inform you to “put your own mask on before helping others,” they are not kidding.
8. The Cabin Air Comes From The Engines
At the altitudes that commercial airliners fly at, the air is too thin for a person to breathe in and remain conscious. So the air has to be compressed to a pressure that will allow passengers to breathe easily but not to atmospheric pressure, which will cause the cabin to decompress due to the great difference in pressure. So the air pressure is a compromise in the middle and the air you breathe is what you’d find at 2400 meters. The air is compressed by the engines anyway so a part of it is sent into the cabin and that is the air passengers breathe.
9. Your Aircraft May Be In Worse Shape Than You Think
If an aircraft isn’t in the sky, it doesn’t earn any money. There is tremendous pressure on the part of the airline to get the flight underway again as soon as possible, when it breaks.So to avoid keeping a plane in the repair shop for to long there is a document known as the MEL, or Minimum Equipment List. What this system permits is aircraft flying around in the sky that are potentially operating with only half the usual systems. It’s still safe, of course—unless that other half also decides to fail.
10. The Engine Has Explosive Charges Inside
Each engine comes fully equipped with one (sometimes two) explosive charges, which are known as “squibs”. These are used to combat engine fires. Upon firing, the explosive charge punctures the airtight seal of a highly pressurized bottle, and a fire-retardant chemical is violently expelled all over the engine’s interior to smother any flames that remain in the engine casing.