Fun facts about airplanes and flying
While many of us are familiar with flying, we might not understand the mechanics, or have questions about how the whole thing actually works. How do airplanes stay in the sky? Is one seat safer than the other? And what happens if a baby is born mid-flight? We've compiled a list of some fun facts about airplanes and flying to answer some of your more adventurous questions.
How and why can airplanes fly?
Airplanes are able to fly because the movement of air across their wings creates an upward force on the body of the plane. This force is greater than the force of gravity pulling the plane down toward the ground. This is called 'lift'. The movement of the airplane is caused by the thrust of its engine -the power it has to get up into the sky. These different forces combine to help a plane to get into the sky and stay there.
Why do ears pop during take-off and landing?
Who hasn't experienced the unpleasant sensation of popping ears during take-off (and landing)? The air high above the Earth's surface is less dense than nearer the ground and as the atmospheric pressure changes when the plane ascends and descends any air trapped in your inner ear is put under pressure. This causes discomfort and that 'popping' sensation. Combat it by yawning or sucking a sweet.
What is the highest altitude commercial planes can fly?
The highest a commercial airliner has ever flown is up to 18,288 metres! This amazing feat was achieved by a Concorde airplane. The highest a military airplane has been able to fly is about 27,432 metres. These days commercial planes can fly to a maximum of 13,716 metres but some private jets can fly to about 15,500 metres.
Can airplanes stay in the air without moving?
Unlike helicopters which use the movement of a propeller to stay up in the sky, airplanes need the forces of lift, drag, thrust and weight to move forward. Could an aircraft stay completely still in the air? Possibly, but its lift and weight would need to cancel each other out while at exactly the same time thrust and drag cancel each other out as well. This isn't really likely to happen! The wings of an aircraft need to be moving through the air and to speed up, to keep the plane in the sky. If it were to stop flying forwards the plane would plummet very quickly!
Can airplanes fly with just one engine?
Yes, a plane can fly with one engine if it is a twin-engine aircraft. A plane with only one working engine can take off safely and land properly. This means that losing an engine mid-flight is not a problem for an experienced pilot. When pilots receive their training they are taught how to deal with the loss of engines and how to take action to safely land the plane using only one engine.
Is there a difference between sitting in a forward-facing seat vs. a rear-facing seat?'
In the 1950s, the UK Navy started to install rear-facing seats in their planes - after testing revealed people were likely to receive fewer and less severe injuries to the head and body when using them. By completing different experiments, the experts found out that passengers had a ten times greater chance of making it out of a plane crash alive when using rear-facing seats. Having said this, the majority of airlines still use forward facing seats.
Can newborns travel by air? How early can newborns fly?
Generally, the best advice is that parents wait until their baby's immune systems are more well-developed. This is usually between one and six months (for full term infants). Usually it is safe between three and six months. The air pressure in an airplane is lower than on the ground so parents who have babies with heart or lung problems should check with their doctors first. Parents of premature babies may want to ask their doctor for their recommendation before attempting a flight.
*Extra travel tips: Read more on important rules to know when flying with infants and children
What happens when a baby is born in international waters? What is the nationality of the baby?
When a baby is born on an international flight, parents will choose the baby to have the same nationality as the mother or father. Under the Convention on International Civil Aviation, airplanes have the nationality of the state in which they are registered, but any birth on a country's aircraft is not to be treated as a birth in that country. Under current law the child would be given the same citizenship as its parents.
How long do planes rest between flights?
There are no rules that limit flight time for airplanes, as long as they have been re-fueled and given regular maintenance checks. Maintenance on the fuselage, wings and tyres can take weeks, so this would be a time when the airplane would not be doing regular flights. Sometimes planes are allowed a small amount of time to allow the wheel brakes to cool down between flights to protect the life span and accuracy of the brakes.
Do commercial flights stop at night? Is there a curfew for commercial flights?
Strictly speaking, flights don't stop running at night, though there may be fewer flights running in the later hours or overnight. Airport staff are usually on duty at the terminals finishing various tasks, but many airports are bound by noise regulations which prevent them from from frequent flying during the later hours. Some airports, including those in Australia and in Europe, have night curfews, restricting hours for flights to operate, including landing and take-off. There is also less demand from passengers for late night and overnight flights, but a few red-eye flights do depart from major airports in the early hours.
*Extra travel tips: Read more on how to recover from red-eye flights?
If you didn't know these before, we have other basic questions about airplanes. Use these to stir up a conversation around the table or during your next flight with your family and travel companion(s). So whenever you're ready to take to the skies, book a flight with CheapTickets.
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