10 Unknown Facts About Airplanes


1. Flushing the toilet in an airplane while sitting on the seat can be disastrous.

airplane-toilet

Source: Wikimedia Commons

For some people, it is normal to flush the toilet while you are still sitting on it, but the same should not be done with an airplane toilet. The airplane toilets are vacuum toilets which were first installed by Boeing in 1982. These toilets need really strong suction to pull the waste away with as little water as possible. The suction pulls the waste away into a holding tank where it is held there for the flight duration and then evacuated when the plane lands.

It is not advisable to flush while sitting on the toilet in an airplane as the vacuum pressure when flushing is quite high and you can get stuck on the toilet due to the suction the pressure creates. This is the reason why most airlines have the sign which states, “Do Not Flush While Seated On Toilet.” Avoid such embarrassing situations by standing up before flushing the toilet.

2.  Flying when you have the flu or a cold can cause damage to your eardrums which can lead to loss of hearing.

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credit: Pixabay

Flying usually has an unpleasant effect on the ears as passengers tend to have ear discomfort or pain during flights. This discomfort is usually caused by the sudden change in altitude as the eardrum usually has an equal amount of air pressure on its inside and its outside.

The air pressure on the inside of the eardrum does not have enough time to equalize with the ear pressure outside the ear, and this causes the discomfort. But usually, the discomfort can be alleviated by swallowing, chewing gum, yawning, or by holding air in the mouth, pinching the nose shut and forcing the air through the ears until they pop.

But these remedies will not work when you have a cold. The discomfort is likely to get worse as the ears are already blocked due to the cold so there is no way to equalize the air pressure. This can lead to an ear infection or a ruptured eardrum which in turn can lead to more serious issues like loss of hearing or permanent ear damage.

3. It is not widely known that the cabin crew have their private sleeping quarters on an airplane. This usually applies to planes that go on long-haul flights.

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mage credit: Boeing via dailymail

During long-haul flights, the cabin crew have to take a break at some point and the airplane designers have found a way to create some space for them while still leaving as much room as possible for the paying passengers. These rooms are usually very small and the space created is quite cramped but has the necessities they need. Most of the Boeing 777 and 787 planes usually have a secret staircase that leads to the crew rest area.

The cabin crew does not make use of the compartments during takeoff, taxi, or landing but only when the flight is at cruising altitude. Passengers are restricted from these rooms and an access key or code is usually needed to gain entrance into the compartment.

The compartments vary in design according to the plane’s design. The pilots also have their own resting space. The crew rest compartments are usually found near the top of the airplane. The apartments are not usually found on normal flights but only the long-haul ones. The sleeping quarters are secret compartments that have sleeping bags and some entertainment systems.

4. Airplanes are designed to fly for a long time with just one functioning engine.

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Image Source: Pixabay

A twin-engine plane is designed to fly for a long time with only one functioning engine. The plane is able to take off and land with just one engine so the loss of an engine is not usually a really serious issue. If an engines fail, pilots are trained on how to fly the plane with the engine’s loss and find the nearest airport where they can land.

Plane engines have been built to withstand most problems and survive them. For instance, if a fire occurs in an engine, airplanes have built-in fire extinguishers which the pilots can activate from the cockpit. The fire is usually put out, but if the fire is not completely extinguished, the casing of the engine is fireproof and will contain the fire ensuring that it does not spread. Even if one of the blades in the front of the engine should detach, the engine casing holds it and keeps it from damaging the wing or the body of the plane.

Most passengers are unaware of engine failures as the pilots are well trained to handle such situations and keep them from the passengers unless the situation gets worse and puts the plane in danger.

5.  The cockpit has an escape hatch which provides the pilot with a way out in case of an emergency.

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Image Source: Seti

Passengers have several emergency exits available to them in an airplane, but it is not widely known that the pilots have their own escape hatch complete with escape ropes within the cockpit. The escape hatch is located at different points in different airplane types.

For some airplanes, the escape hatch is at the side window which opens inwards and slides down. There is a storage box with a rope above the window which the pilot can use to climb down and out the plane. Some planes also have an escape hatch on top of the plane as the only cockpit exit. Some planes have both exit points just in case the plane lands on the side and the side escape hatch is blocked

The escape hatch provides the pilots with a way out of the airplane in the case that there is an emergency and they need to leave the plane.

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6. The door to the airplane toilet can be unlocked from outside even after it has been locked from within.

Sometimes, people get stuck inside airplane toilets and it is left to the airplane hostesses or host to find a way to unlock the door. This is possible as airplane toilet doors have a mechanism outside the door that allows it to be unlocked.

Locking the door after going into the airplane’s toilet does not mean it is locked. The airplane’s toilet door can be unlocked from outside.  So nobody is really locked in the plane’s toilet. It can always be opened.

All that has to be done is to lift up the panel on the toilet door where it states “toilet” or “lavatory”, behind it is an unlocking mechanism. Then slide the latch of the mechanism to the left and the door opens. Of course, this method should only be used when necessary to assist an occupant or for security reason.

7. Food served on airplanes sometimes tastes bland. This can be because your taste buds go numb due to the cabin pressure.

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Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

People are usually unimpressed by meals served on airplanes as they often taste really bland. But the truth is that the food is not really the problem. The taste buds also contribute to the lack of taste in airline meals. While flying, the sense of taste is impaired as the taste buds tend to go numb during a flight. This gives all meals eaten during the flight a bland taste.

According to The Fraunhofer Institute, a research organization based in Germany, the food was tried out in a pressurized environment and at sea level, and they discovered that meals tasted different in both environments.  They went on to reveal that a person’s ability to taste saltiness and sweetness drops to at as low as 30 percent because of the high altitude of the plane. The humidity in the plane is also decreased and this dries out the taste sensors that are needed to taste the flavors in a meal.

The airline meals are not all necessarily bad, but the plane’s pressurized cabin atmosphere makes it difficult for passengers to really enjoy their meals.

8. The tiny, unnoticeable hole in the window of an airplane regulates the air pressure between the windows and keeps them free of fog.

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Image Source: Flickr

Most people look out of airplane windows and never notice an unusual feature on the window.There is an almost unnoticeable, tiny hole in an airplane window which is called a “breather hole.”

As an airplane flies higher, the cabin pressure drops. The airplane windows are created in a way that lets them manage that pressure. The windows in a plane are usually three panes that are made of acrylic material. The middle glass pane is the one with the hole in it, and the outer pane is meant to bear the majority of the air pressure.

These breather holes regulate the amount of pressure that passes between the window’s outer and inner panes.  In the unusual event that the outer pane fails, the middle pane takes over and can handle the pressure on its own. The breather hole also helps keep the windows free of fog by releasing moisture through the hole.

9. The oxygen masks in airplanes have enough oxygen to last between 12-15 minutes, during which the pilot must cause the plane descend to an altitude suitable for normal breathing.

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Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

Oxygen masks are a necessity in airplanes as they help in the event of a loss of cabin pressure in the plane. Since airplanes fly at a high altitude, the air becomes really thin and the oxygen level is quite low, so the aircraft is built to keep the cabin pressure at a tolerable level. But, if for any reason the cabin pressure drops, the oxygen masks will drop from the ceiling and the passengers will be instructed to put them on until the pilot is able to take the plane to a level where the altitude is safe for normal breathing.

Most people are unaware of the fact that the oxygen the masks provide only lasts between 12-15 minutes during which the pilot would have reached a safe altitude where normal breathing can be done.

If you do not use the oxygen mask after the loss of cabin pressure, hypoxia – lack of oxygen to the brain – may occur which can eventually cause brain damage or death.

10. An aircraft “black box” is designed to withstand an impact of 3,400 Gs and temperatures of over 2,000° C.

Black-box

Image credit: Brazilian Air Force

A “black box” is a flight data recorder which stores information on conversations between crew members and air traffic control, flight control, and also technical information on the performance of the airplane.

The box is made up of a  thin layer of aluminium and a one-inch layer of high-temperature insulation. The box is then enclosed in a corrosion-resistant, titanium or stainless steel shell. The box’s signal can not be detected by human ear but can be easily found by sonar. The black box is built to withstand any crash.

The box is designed to withstand  3,400 times the force of gravity and should also be able to withstand a fire that is up to 2,ooo° C for an hour. The box’s beacon is able to emit a signal every second for thirty days even when it is 20,000 feet  beneath the sea.

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