20 Common Myths About Airplanes You Need to Stop Believing
Busting these super-common airplane myths will no doubt make you feel safer every time you fly.
Don’t fall for all those scary airplane scenes in movies
Of all the things your flight attendant won’t tell you, perhaps the most curious is that airplane travel is now safer than ever. In fact, 2017 saw no fatalities resulting from commercial airline crashes, and a quick look at statistics compiled by the Aviation Safety Network reveals that even as traveling by airplane has become increasingly widespread, the number of fatal accidents has been on a downward trend. Accordingly, many of the scary stories and worrisome warnings you’ve heard are no longer true (or never were in the first place).
Now, just go ahead and try to open that cabin door
You may have heard stories of passengers threatening to exit midflight through a cabin door and worried that something terrible could happen to everyone on board. Fact is, a commercial aircraft door can’t be opened during a flight, according to Dan Boland, airline pilot and founder of Holidayers travel website. Doing so would require “superhuman strength.” To mystery buffs who wonder how to reconcile this with the story of hijacker, DB Cooper (who in 1971 may or may not have have parachuted to freedom midflight between Portland and Reno), we can say only that in 2018, no one is exiting a commercial airplane midflight. Take a look at the real reasons behind these weird airplane safety rules.
Don’t fret those little holes in the window
Boland assures us that no one has ever been sucked out of an airplane due to a hole in a window—or anywhere else. First, airplanes are designed with small holes in the windows; they regulate cabin pressure. Second, even an unplanned hole (such as a bullet hole) wouldn’t pose a danger, Boland says. “You’d have a rush of air into the cabin, followed by oxygen masks dropping. Then you’d notice it getting colder and louder. But that’s it. No danger of being sucked out.” Find out where the safest seat on an airplane is—and other airplane facts you’ve always wondered.
Speaking of oxygen masks…
Conspiracy theorists will tell you that oxygen masks don’t have an oxygen supply at all. They’re wrong, according to Boland. “In the rare event an airplane were to lose pressure, you’d lose consciousness within 45 seconds and die within minutes,” and we know that’s not what happens. That said, your mask provides only about 12 minutes worth of oxygen, according to Bobby Laurie, flight attendant-turned-travel-expert and host of televisions’ The Jet Set. However, that’s more than enough time for the pilot to descend to a breathable altitude. Don’t miss the 7 hidden airplane features you never knew existed.
Another oxygen conspiracy gets debunked
Some people believe that airplane cabins are deliberately low on oxygen in order to calm the passengers into a sleepy state, but nothing could be further from the truth, says Boland. “Pilots share the same air as passengers, so if this were true, we’d be falling asleep too.” The real reasons for in-flight fatigue have more to do with boredom, motion, and the fact that the cabin pressurization makes it slightly more difficult for human lungs to use oxygen. The smell doesn’t help, either; to keep yourself clean, never do these things in an airplane bathroom.
Turn off your handheld device, but not for the reason you think
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Keeping your cell phone on during takeoff and landing will not interfere with the plane’s navigation, says Boland. The real reason you’re asked to turn off your devices is that you should be paying attention during takeoff and landing—to the safety speech and in case anything should go wrong that requires your action,” says Matt Guidice, operator of Matt’s Flights, a cheap-travel email subscription service. Here’s more things airlines keep from you.
No, you won’t see it raining pee and poop
It’s time to put to rest the nasty rumor that pilots empty the toilet waste mid-flight, Boland tells Reader’s Digest. “The only waste that we can physically dump out the plane is water, and only through the flight attendant galley sinks.” To do otherwise would run the risk of something sticking to the aircraft and causing navigation problems.” Besides, it’s just totally nasty, and it doesn’t happen.
Yet another toilet myth, and it sucks
Yes, the toilets suck hard when you flush, Boland admits. But is it true that if you flush while sitting down, your insides will get sucked right out of you? Heck no. The only way this could ever happen is if you were to somehow “miraculously” form the perfect seal of skin to seat while the flushing were continuous. Neither of these is possible. In fact, the toilet seats are designed to prevent a perfect seal from forming.
The cabin air isn’t your enemy
A recent survey conducted by Honeywell found that nearly half of respondents were under the impression that cabin air makes people sick, presumably because it recycles people’s germs. While Boland admits “the dry cabin air supports germ spread,” the fact remains that the air is changed once every three minutes, with “60 percent recycled through hospital grade filters that remove 95 percent of bacteria, and 40 percent dedicated to cooling the computers and cargo holds. These are the 11 things traveling on a plane does to your body.
Pilots don’t have parachutes
While germs may be airborne before they are filtered from the cabin, you can be sure that your pilot will not be airborne under any circumstances. “Why do people believe that pilots have parachutes?” Boland wonders. “Even if we did, we couldn’t escape an aircraft mid-flight” (as discussed earlier), “and besides, our job is to protect and safely fly our passengers to their destination.”