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.

How to Get Your Pilot’s License

There’s no feeling quite like flying a plane. At thousands of feet above the ground, you cut through the air with the ease and precision of a bird, something humans years ago would never have imagined possible. It’s an indescribable sensation like no other, on top of being a convenient mode of transportation that allows you to travel literally “as the crow flies.” With as gratifying as it is to learn to fly, there’s no reason anyone shouldn’t go through the steps necessary to get your pilot’s license, as long as you pass the requirements.

In order to be eligible for your pilot’s license, there are a few things that are required of you. First and foremost, you need to be physically healthy and have a proficient grasp of the English language, as English is the language used most commonly used by air traffic controllers. While other languages are definitely spoken over the radios, if requested, you must be able to communicate in English. Much like driving a car, you also need to be a certain age to get your pilot’s license. Although you can’t receive a regular pilot’s license until you reach 17, at 16 you can get your student pilot’s certificate where you can lay some groundwork and learn the basics for when you’re old enough. Once you’re ready, here are the necessary steps to getting your pilot’s license.

  1. Find a school and get yourself enrolled.

Do some research and find yourself a school that seems like it would be a good fit for you. If you need help, the Aircraft Owners and Pilot’s Association has a database of all licensed flight instructors.

  1. Get your health checked.

Just like you need a physical to play sports in high school, before you can be cleared to fly a plane you need to be deemed “in good health” by an Airman Medical Examiner designated by the FAA.

  1. Learn the basics.

Before anyone is going to let you hop into a plane and fly it, you’re going to need to learn a lot about piloting. On top of all of the work you’re assigned during your ground course, it’s also a good idea to broaden your pool of knowledge with any informational materials you can get your hands on.

  1. Fly.

Once you’ve learned all of the basics and fundamentals of piloting, it’s time to put those lessons into action in the air. The FAA mandates that all student pilots undergo at least 40 hours of time in the air before you can get your license, and of those 40, at least 20 hours need to be with an instructor. Keep in mind that these are the minimum requirements, and many students spend much more time in the air practicing. In this “flying phase,” there are three important steps:

A. Dual flying – As mentioned, you need to fly for at least 20 hours with an instructor when you’re first beginning to learn.

B. Solo flying – Here’s where you take the reigns and get in some time practicing flying all by yourself.

C. Written exam – For part of your examination to earn your license, you need to take a 60 multiple-choice question exam to assess how well you’ve retained from your first lessons.

D. Flight test – The very last step, just like your driving test, is your flight test. You’ll be required to answer questions and then the instructor will board the plane with you to assess your skills.

Flight Safety Tips

Flying in aircrafts wasn’t made for fun, but for fast and easy travel. However, flying thousands of feet in the air can be very stressful, especially when something goes wrong. Thankfully, aircrafts are required by law to follow specific guidelines and standards which makes flying very safe. However, an emergency can happen at any given moment. Be sure to follow these tips to ensure maximum safety during your air flight.

Dress Accordingly

There is no such thing as taking too much precaution when preparing for a flight. One of the best things to do is to travel light and easy. Although it may not may not be ideal or easy, packing only the most important things can save you the energy and hassle of carrying all of your belongings in the event of an emergency. Also be sure to wear comfortable clothing. Although some may say to wear your bulkiest clothing on the plane, this can actually create more hassle if you’re worried about getting up and on your feet quickly. Be sure to wear comfortable clothing and avoid heels, flip flops, and long skirts and dresses. To be ultimately prepared, make sure you have your most important items packed and ready to go with you in the event of an emergency.

Pay Attention to your Surroundings

When you arrive at the airport be sure to pay close attention to everything going on. For one, you’re in an area filled with tons of people rushing in and out of the airport. You never know what can happen. Get through check-in and security as quickly as possible. When on the plane, be sure to pay close attention to the flight attendants and read through the safety manuals on the plane. Look around and make sure you know where the oxygen masks, floaters and exit doors are. In any case of an emergency be sure you put your oxygen mask first before you help others.

Have a Clear Head

Although trying to find ways to relax on a flight can be a hard thing to do, you must remember to have a clear head and mind at all times. For instance, alcohol is one of the worst things to drink on a plane. For one it’s super expensive and the pressure in the air can cause you to feel more lightheaded and uneasy. If you have a long flight, you may think that popping a Nyquil will help you sleep better, however, in the event of an emergency, the last thing you want to do is be drowsy, dizzy and not know what’s going on. Instead, find natural ways to relax by listening to music, sipping on water, and moving around as much as you can throughout your flight. If anything should happen, you’ll be glad to know you’re alert and ready to go.

Famous Flyers

There are lots of regular people with pilot’s license, whether for recreational, sport, or private flying. In more rural areas, it’s common for a few people to have tiny planes and utilize the small airports in the area. While it costs between $5,000 and $10,000 to get these licenses, lots of people do it, even celebrities. Getting your private pilot’s license takes a lot of work, with 40 hours of training, 20 of which are with an instructor, 10 are solo, and 5 involve cross-country travel. You also need to successfully make several night landings and take a written exam, along with various other requirements set by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Take a look at this list on the various requirements. It takes a lot of hard work to become a pilot and here’s a list of several celebrities who’ve done it!

Angelina Jolie

Jolie’s son, Maddox, loves planes. One day it dawned on her that she could get her pilot’s license and fly with him and has been doing so for about a decade. Thanks to her success as an actress, she’s able to own several of her own planes and frequently flies. She even has a helicopter pad at the family chateau in France.

Harrison Ford

Harrison Ford is adamant about his love for flying and encourages people to give it a try. He frequently appears at air shows and has even worked for the Aircraft Owner’s and Pilot’s Association (AOPA). He started flying around age 52, owns quite a few planes, and has even made headlines for crashing one of his planes and his helicopter, but ended up being alright after a hospital stay. He sometimes even volunteers as a search and rescue pilot.

Tim McGraw

This country music star also holds a deep love of flying. He has the same plane as Jolie, a Cirrus SR22, and has even appeared in commercials for the company. McGraw loves flying because it lets him completely clear his mind and not have to worry about work and anything else that’s going on in his life.

Morgan Freeman

Freeman always had an interest in aviation and even served as a mechanic in the Air Force when he was younger. Though, making more of this interest didn’t happen until he was 65, when he finally got his pilot’s license. He know appears at air shows and does PSAs for the AOPA.

Gisele Bundchen
This international supermodel started taking helicopter lessons in 2009. Gisele was nearly six months pregnant with her son when she began her lessons, but still acquired her pilot’s license. She wanted to learn more about aviation while she was a UN Ambassador and working on an initiative for alternative fuels.

4 Things You Have to Do with Your Pilot’s License

You did it! You earned your pilot’s license and have beaten the laws of gravity. You can now take to the skies as you please and travel as the birds do through the air. However, learning to fly is only half of the adventure: the other half comes when you experience new things and have adventures with new people in the places where your plane takes you. If you have your pilot’s license, here are a few things you absolutely must do.

Take your family on a vacation.

You spent so much time learning to fly and practicing your skills, so why not show them off to the people who matter most? Plan a vacation for you and your loved ones where you can be in charge of travel plans and getting them to and from the location safely. Since you can reach places where ground-only travelers are unable, take your family somewhere new and exciting and show them things many people in life will never have the chance to witness.

You have to fly at night.

There are few if any things in life more magical than flying an airplane at night. There are no other cars to look out for, no deer to avoid hitting, and no sharp turns to navigate. The night sky makes for an incredibly peaceful place to travel. It’s even more magical if you fly at night over a city; you can see the lights twinkling below you and witness the humdrum and cacophony below you without having to take part.

Take someone on their first flight.

After you’ve grown accustomed to flying a plane and are comfortable doing so, relive the excitement and exhilaration of your first time flying by taking someone on their first flight. Being with someone while they fly for the first time puts their experience in your hands as they count on you to get them to and from your destination safely.

See the Fall Foliage from the air.

It doesn’t matter whether your nickname is Bear Grylls or if you’ve never set foot in the woods in your life; anyone and everyone can appreciate a beautiful cross-country airplane ride, especially during autumn. The fresh, crisp air combined with the warm palette of autumn hues is breathtaking to drive through, and awe inspiring from the air.

Whether you’ve just earned your license or have been flying for years, there are always new sights to see and new ways to revitalize your love of flying.

Why You Should Get Your Pilot’s License

For a lot of people, even the thought of setting foot on an airplane fills them with horrible anxiety, but others take to the sky like they were born for it. If you feel at home among the clouds and you have the ability, procuring your pilot’s license is one of the single most rewarding things you can do with your life, and there are so many reasons to get one!

The sky is literally the limit

When you have your pilot’s license, there’s no longer a need to wait in the long lines at the airport to sit in cramped seats all throughout your flight; when you can fly your own plane, you leave and arrive on your terms. Flying also removes the need to drive to far away locations — no longer will you have to sit in traffic and take detours to arrive at your destination long after you’d originally planned. When you fly, you can go directly from Point A to Point B without the hassle of conventional travel.

The view is unbeatable.

Think of the beautiful and picturesque landscapes that you see when you take off and land on a commercial airplane. Now imagine that you can see them, not through the tiny airplane window that you crane to see through from the aisle seat, but sprawled out in front of you and laying all around you. When you’re flying hundreds of feet in the air, the only things that have a better view than you are the birds flying all around you. Why travel on the ground when you could soar above it effortlessly?

It’s an amazing thrill.

Perhaps it’s the actual bird’s eye view, perhaps it’s defying the laws of physics by being airborne, but there’s something about being in a plane up in the air that’s simply exhilarating. For the same reason people ride roller coasters and go skydiving, you now have one of the greatest adrenaline inducers right at your fingertips. Even after the initial thrill of flying yourself has worn off, there are always new places to travel and new sights to see.

You learn how to make decisions quickly.

When you’re sailing through the air and something goes wrong, either with the plane or the weather, you have to quickly make a decision and take control of the situation or you could end up seriously injured or dead. Flying allows you to hone your reflexes and your instincts in ways that will help you both when you fly and during everyday life.