In Air Facts: Things to Know

Traveling by air means different things to different people. For some, the thought of flying only elicits fear, while for others flying is something associated with more pleasant feelings of relaxing holidays or visiting loved ones. However, whatever the reason for your travels, it seems that there’s a lot people don’t actually know about airplanes.

Of course, most people have a basic idea about how planes work, but the majority of people probably don’t know that there’s a hidden switch that allows flight attendants to unlock the lavatory door from the outside. It’s usually located underneath the metal ‘Lavatory’ sign and is there in case someone passes out or suffers from a sudden health problem while inside.

While this little tidbit isn’t something you should ever consider using, here are a few other useful facts that should help clear up some of the confusion surrounding airplane travel.

Why Does Everything Taste Funny in the Air?

It seems that people have been complaining about airplane food for almost as long as planes have been in existence. Of course, airplane meals have gotten better over time, and nowadays you can actually be served some quite tasty dishes—especially when traveling in business or first class. Nonetheless, it takes a lot of thought and special preparation to make food taste good at high altitude.

The problem is that the altitude dries your sinuses and dulls your taste buds, meaning most things don’t taste like much. To overcome this, airlines are forced to use large amounts of sugars and salts to enhance the taste.

What Do Pilots Eat?

Speaking of food, have you ever wondered what pilots get to eat? Well, the answer isn’t all that exciting, as most airlines serve their pilot’s food off the standard business or first-class menu. However, the pilot and co-pilot are usually required to order different meals. This way, one person should remain healthy in case one of the in-flight meals was contaminated.

How Clean is a Plane Really?

Unfortunately, you probably don’t want to know the answer to this question. The quick turnaround times in between flights means that there’s no way to fully scrub down a plane in between. In fact, most planes aren’t even stocked with new pillows or blankets and instead reuse the same ones throughout the day. This means that if those items aren’t sealed in plastic, they’ve probably already been used by passengers on previous flights.

Why Do Planes Still Have Ashtrays?

This is one question that still vexes many, as even modern airplanes still have ashtrays in the lavatory despite the fact that you haven’t been able to smoke on planes in decades. The reason is that ashtrays are mandated by law. In case someone decides to light up in spite of the many no smoking signs, the lavatory ashtrays ensure they have a safe place to put out their butt before facing down their huge fine.

Why Do the Window Shades Have to Be Up For Takeoff and Landing?

This final item relates to safety. The majority of crashes happen during takeoff and landing. Keeping the window shades open allows both the crew and passengers to be aware of what’s going on outside, which will obviously be important in the unlikely event of a crash.

Apps for Pilots

Ever since the early days of the E6B flight computer, pilots, navigators, and aerial engineers have been bringing various analog and digital tools into cockpits for the purpose of enhancing their flight experience. Although modern avionics provide pilots with a plethora of flight instruments and tools, there is something nice about boarding the aircraft with a shiny iPad or a powerful Android tablet loaded with the following mobile apps:

WingX Pro7

This award-winning app comes with an impressive endorsement: developer Hilton Software is the recipient of a $17 million contract awarded by the United States National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency. Similar to Garmin Pilot, WingX Pro7 provides every kind of chart that pilots need in the cockpit: from VFR sectionals to IFR en route and from geo-referenced to ADS-B NEXRAD weather overlays. The pinch and zoom functionality of this app makes it one of the best for charting.

AeroWeather

Although there are hundreds of weather apps available to the aviation community, AeroWeather stands out thanks to it simplified interface and data structure. Meteorological stations at all airports around the world can be displayed with a quick search and a couple of taps, and the information is decoded into a format that is easy to assimilate. The iOS version of AeroWeather links to the Apple Watch.

CloudAhoy

Thanks to debriefing apps such as CloudAhoy, students, and professional pilots are able to review training sessions, routes, scenarios, and more. In essence, CloudAhoy is a cloud service connected to a massive knowledge base that is rich in VFR, IFR, weather, local rules, satellite imagery, aircraft specs and more. Not only does CloudAhoy present all details related to flight routes and cockpit activity; it also provides valuable analysis and a full review of instrumentation feedback. This app even includes social media features so that interesting and scenic flights can be shared with friends.

SkyDemon

Quite a few European pilots are very familiar with this popular flight planning app, which is a powerful VFR charting tool that provides some of the highest resolutions for layers and airspace clipping. METAR and SIGMET information is displayed during the planning and briefing stages, and it can be reviewed during the flight; live weather updates are displayed as long as an internet connection is available. SkyDemon also features an automatic pilot log that is accurately recorded along with GPS data on devices with navigation features.

What Being A Pilot Teaches You About Life

In life, there are any number of crossovers between where we learn certain lessons and where we can apply them. The natural world also has a great deal to teach us about the unwritten rules of life. There are rules of business that also apply to our personal relationships, rules of physics that also apply to finance and what our kids have to teach us can also help us succeed in our adult relationships. Flying is no different. Being a pilot has a number of life lessons to teach. Here are three.

All of life is a trade-off

In the world of aviation, trade-offs abound. To gain one thing, you must sacrifice another. Higher payload decreases speed and fuel efficiency and for best fuel efficiency at a higher payload, you have to sacrifice speed. There is a common phrase used in business, which is “good, fast, cheap: pick two.” In life you can have anything you want, but you can’t have it all. Invariably, life forces you to pick one or two of the most important things and sacrifice the rest. Just like life, flying airplanes is all about trade-offs.

Worrying doesn’t solve anything – and neither does panic.

One thing any pilot is constantly aware of is that anything can go wrong at any time and risks are always higher when you are thousands of feet in the air. A flashing red light in a car might be a cause for concern but not necessarily alarm. For the most part, you just have to pull to the side of the road, but you are still on terra firma the whole time. Not so in an airplane. Worrying, however, doesn’t do anything but keep you grounded. Pilots know the risks, they accept the risks, they do their due diligence – and then they get up in the air, risks and all.

They train for events like engine failures and flashing red lights so they don’t panic when it happens. Pilots are trained to stay focused and work through the problem rather than panicking. This is a skill that carries them through almost any problem, in the sky or on the ground.

Life is not fair

Most pilots know someone who has died in a crash. Many times, these pilots are some of the most careful pilots in aviation, studiously checking every nut and bolt of their craft before alighting into the skies. Most pilots also know of careless pilots who sail through their pre-flight checks with an alarming lack of proper attention; and yet, they just keep flying year after year. Life is not fair. There is no accounting for who succeeds and who fails. You just have to keep doing your own rigorous pre-flight checks and try not to fly with those who don’t.