Airplanes are an incredible feat of human engineering, but there are tiny technical aspects that go into keeping us all in the air that we hardly ever notice. Here are a few things about planes you may not have known.
1. Why they dim the lights
Not a technical point exactly but the cabin lights are always dimmed before landing, especially on a night flight. This is done to help your eyes acclimatise to the darkness in case the need for an evacuation arises. This way, you’ll be able to see clearly once you slide out of the emergency exit.
2. They don’t need both engines
The idea of losing an engine mid-flight might be every passengers worst nightmare, but planes actually don’t need to fly with two engines. While only having half the engine power is less fuel-efficient, planes are designed to be able to fly safely for a certain amount of time until they find somewhere to land.
3. You only have 12-15 minutes of oxygen
During the safety speech, that almost no one listens to anymore, the flight attendants show you how to pull down the oxygen mask in the case of a loss of cabin pressure. These masks are meant to keep you breathing but only have around 15 minutes of oxygen in them. This is because they are only meant to keep you going until the pilot lowers the plane to a level where you can breathe without assistance.
4. There’s a tiny hole in the window
If you’ve looked at an airplane window you might notice a little hole in the middle at the bottom of the pane. An airplane window is made up of three panes, with the outside pane meant to protect you from the outside and the middle one there as a fail safe should the outer one fail. The tiny hole regulates the pressure, making sure the middle pane stays in place until it’s needed.
5. You can’t open doors while in flight
In pressurised planes, it isn’t possible to open the emergency exits from the inside. This is because the pressure inside the cabin is much higher than the pressure of the air outside. So it would be necessary to overcome this pressure and lift a heavy door to get it open.
6. Lights on the wings
If you look up into the sky and see a plane flying overhead you will notice little lights flashing on either side of the wings. Every plane has a red light on the left wing and a green light on the right, this is to help other pilots flying in the dark tell which way oncoming planes are flying.
7. Their tyres are strong
This seems like an obvious fact since the tyres take most of the pressure when a big, hulking plane comes to land. They are designed to withstand weights as high as 38 tons and are inflated to 200 psi, which is about six times the pressure used in a car.
8. They are designed to be hit by lightning
Many people fear their planes being taken down by lightening but this is actually not possible. Planes are built to protect themselves from a lightning strike, including insulated fuel systems, composite construction, and special, current transferring static wicks to make sure lightening conducts through the plane without harming anything important.
9. The purpose of the floor lighting strips
Airplanes didn’t always have those strings along the floor directing you towards the exit, but were implemented after an air crash where passengers were found to be crawling towards the fire in the plane and away from the exits because they couldn’t tell which way to go. This resulted in the FAA requiring planes to place strips on the floor orientating passengers who are trying to make an exit.
10. Turbulence won’t take you down
Turbulence often feels terrifying when you’re flying, but it’s actually not much to worry about. The most turbulence will drop a plane is about 30 meters, which terrifying but not deadly. The usual turbulence felt by most planes move them by 6 meters at most.