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Your Most Common Questions About Flying… Answered

The wonders of air travel continue to amaze us no matter how often we fly.  We’ve answered your most common questions about flying.  Read on to get the inside scoop.

Why Must Planes Fly So High?

Most commercial planes travel at around 35,000 feet. This is because higher altitudes have thinner air and aircraft can travel faster and more cost efficiently at these altitudes. There is a limit however at above 42,000 feet. At this altitude engine problems can occur due to insufficient oxygen.

How Common Are Emergency Landings?

Well, emergency landings happen more often than we’d like to think. According to the Civil Aviation Authority, Heathrow averages about one emergency landing per week. These can be a result of things such as bad weather or an ill passenger. If you’re on a flight when this happens trust that you’ll be given the information you need and that you’re in safe hands.

Why do Planes Leave White Trails in the Sky?

There is some science behind what is called ‘contrails’. During a flight, hot exhaust mixes with the atmosphere which at high altitudes is colder than the emissions of the plane. What you see is actually frozen water vapor leaving icy streaks in the sky.

Is the Air in the Cabin Bad for Our Health?

The debate continues. Cabin air quality has been a point of dispute for some time. The air onboard a plane is taken from a turbine engine. It is then compressed and conditioned and pumped back into the cabin. Some say that chemicals may contaminate the air and therefore it may contribute to health issues. Most airlines insist that there are no risks of breathing cabin air.

Why do Your Feet Swell During a Flight?

If you’ve been on flights longer than a couple of hours, you may have noticed that your feet and ankles have expanded. For some this happens to their entire legs. When we sit for long periods of time a build up of fluid can occur in our lower extremities. The fact that there is a change in air pressure and we are dehydrated contribute to this reaction. When the seat belt sign is off walk around as much as possible and drink lots of water.

Do Pilots Sleep on the Job?

The short answer is ‘yes’. However, there is no need for panic. Pilots take controlled breaks in their seats. And, they of course only do this one at a time and normally not for more than 45 minutes. These rest periods are agreed in advance and the crew and co-pilot are properly briefed in advance.

Are Low-Cost Airlines Safe?

Safety levels shouldn’t be influenced by the cost of an airline. Your comfort levels may be different with a budget airline however airlines cannot cut corners on passenger safety. Safety regulations and standards are the same for all airlines regardless of cost.

How Much Oxygen is in the Masks?

Oxygen masks drop immediately when cabin pressure falls to a certain point. There is a reserve of oxygen enough for about 12-15 minutes. It may not sound like a lot, but no need to worry. Should a problem occur, the pilot will bring the aircraft to a safe altitude as quickly as possible.

Why do Passengers Board and Disembark Aircraft on the Left Side?

Aircraft luggage holds and fuel tanks are mostly located on the right-hand side. Risk of passenger injury is minimized by keeping all activity on the other side of the plane. Some think this pattern is linked to nautical history. A ship’s port would always be on the left and designers may have followed the same format.

What Determines a Baby’s Nationality if Born In-flight?

This is a real gray area and doesn’t happen very often. In some parts of the world it may depend on the airspace occupied at the time. However, according to the UN, a baby who is born in transit should be a citizen of the country where the airline is registered. In most cases however, the child may adopt the nationality of the parents.

How Does a Plane Stay Up?

Wings and ‘lift’. Lift is caused by introducing an object into airflow. Pressure change is then produced and the lower pressure on the upper surface of the wings and the higher pressure on the lower surface of the wings create lift.

Why do the Window Blinds Need to be Up During Take Off and Landing?

Passengers can many times see more of what is happening outside than the crew can. Take off and landing are the most critical points during a flight. Should their be any external danger then crew can be alerted immediately. If an emergency landing occurs it’s essential that first responders on the ground can see into the plane.

Why Are the Lights Shut Off Before Take Off?

If you’re taking off in the dark then the lights should always be turned off. At this stage of the flight the cabin needs to reflect the external environment. This way your eyes don’t need to adjust should there be an emergency situation.

What Are the Beeps in the Cabin For?

Have you hear a double ding? This means that all checks have been made by the pilot and things are clear for take off. The dings you hear in flight are codes for passing instructions between the crew. There are some standard ones but various airlines use them differently.

Is it Really an Issue if a Phone or Tablet is Left On During Take Off?

Well, chances are that nothing would likely happen however mobile signals can interfere with aircraft equipment. This may not be an issue with only 1 or 2 phones on but if all 400 passengers left their phones on then problems could occur. We can all survive without the phone for a few hours. Just turn it off.

Is it Possible for a Plane’s Engine to Stall During a Flight?

Engine failures are extremely rare. Should this happen though, it’s not a cause for much concern. Aircraft’s must be able to land with one engine in order to pass their performance assessments. Most experienced pilots can still land the plane with all engines cut by gliding the plane to safety.

What Happens if Lightning Strikes a Plane?

If struck by lightning, planes are normally hit at an extremity such as the nose or tip of the wing. The current will travel through the plane before it leaves the aircraft from another point. Normally there is little or no evidence of a lightning strike and normally goes unnoticed.

What is Turbulence?

Turbulence can be caused by another plane passing by, weather conditions and jet streams. It’s quite unpredictable with air pockets which can’t be detected in advance. Planes are built to endure way beyond of what we expect from turbulence. Normally it feels a lot worse than it is. A 10 foot drop can feel like a big jolt. If you are afraid of turbulence, keep your seatbelt on and breathe deeply.

Does Alcohol Affect You More on a Flight?

Yes, it does. Our bodies become incredibly dehydrated during a flight. The average person loses around 2 liters of water during a 10 hour flight. If you are drinking alcohol, you will add to the dehydration. Expect a big hangover the next day.

How Long Can a Plane Go Without Stopping?

Today’s long-haul flights can travel approximately 17-18 hours before stopping. It may not be long before we see 24-hour flights out there.

Can a Plane Fly and Land Itself?

Yes it can! Actually, the whole entire flight could be operated by auto-pilot. Take-offs and landings are usually done manually by the pilot however. The truth is during a standard flight auto-pilot could be enough however it would never replace a pilot in an emergency situation.

Is there a Secret to Getting an Upgrade?

Being polite may help however the days of free upgrades are becoming more and more few.
Unless you’ve actually paid to be in business or first class then the likelihood of getting there these days is quite low.

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