Flying has become so cheap (thanks to the rise of budget airlines) that most 21st century travelers feel that there is little difference between boarding an airplane and boarding a bus. Not so long ago, however, going anywhere by plane was a major event, with passengers – even those in Coach – dressing up for the occasion!
Think back to your first time on a plane, and you will no doubt remember how strange everything seemed, from the sensation of being pressed back in your seat during take-off to those claustrophobic little bathrooms they have on board.
Nowadays, many air passengers probably think they know all there is to know about air travel, including all the less pleasant facts about planes that are supposed to be a secret; such as the fact that airline blankets rarely get washed and that armrests and tables rarely get properly cleaned. Few people realize that the tap water on planes can be dirty too, or that the meals you are eating might not be quite as tasteless as you think – altitude and air pressure on board can even affect our taste buds.
However, there are some hidden features on planes that even regular travelers may well have missed, despite the fact that many of them are hidden in plain sight. Next time you travel on an airplane, keep an eye out for some of these unusual features for yourself.
20 Boeing 747 Has 150 Miles Of Wiring
The Boeing 747, better known to many as the Jumbo Jet, is one of the most iconic passenger airplanes of all time. Its first passenger flight took place in 1970, and it is still in service today, flying thousands of passengers around the world every day.
It is instantly recognizable thanks to the hump-shaped fuselage (the upstairs seating section often houses first class passengers) but what travelers don’t realize is the amount of technology involved in getting such a complex machine off the ground, including 150 miles of wiring hidden away inside the engine and hydraulics of every single Boeing 747.
19 Red Light On Left Wing And Green On Right
If you have ever flown at night, you will no doubt have noticed that there are lights on the wings of planes which continue to shine throughout the flight. What passengers might not know, as they will often only look out of their own window on one side of the plane, is that each wing has a different colored light; red light for the left wing, and green light for the right wing.
This is to help pilots both on the ground and in the air identify which direction other aircraft are traveling. These lights were first developed for use on ships, and the same system was then transferred to planes.
18 Secret Sleeping Compartments
Anyone who has been on a long-haul flight will understand the struggles of trying to get some sleep in a cabin full of other people’s noises while sitting in an uncomfortable seat that doesn’t recline properly.
But imagine if you were one of the cabin crew, who has to be awake and alert in case there is an incident on the plane, as well as being able to deal with grumpy passengers. That explains why in some planes, there are special sleeping areas set aside for the crew, with real beds, where they can get some proper shut-eye while most of the passengers are also dozing.
17 Black Triangle Above Window
This next hidden feature is one that every passenger will have seen, but few will have noticed. Next time you’re on a plane, check out the windows which look out on the wings and you will notice that a couple of them are marked by a small black triangle.
These are the best seats on the plane – at least as far as getting a view of the wings is concerned – and the markings are used by the pilots if they think there might be a fault with the wings that they need to check out while in mid-air. It is even nicknamed “William Shatner’s seat” after the captain of the USS Enterprise in Star Trek.
16 Defibrillator And First Aid
The cabin crew have to be ready for anything when they supervise a flight, and that includes medical emergencies and even minor injuries. There is a well-stocked first aid kit on board every plane, and many airlines carry a defibrillator which the crew is trained to use if someone’s heart stops beating.
If a passenger is seriously unwell then the crew might put out a call to see if there is a doctor on board or the pilot may make the decision that they need to make an emergency landing at the nearest airport, in order to seek proper medical attention for their passenger.
15 Surveillance Cameras
Not even airplane passengers can escape the gaze of Big Brother; many airlines now fit surveillance cameras into their aircraft as an additional security measure. In 2002, budget airline JetBlue became the first to announce that they were going to install video cameras on their planes in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks.
Singapore Airlines also had to apologize after it emerged that there were tiny cameras embedded in the entertainment screens used by every passenger on board their aircraft. Surveillance cameras were also introduced after 9/11 so that the pilots could see who was trying to gain access to the cockpit, and take action accordingly.
14 Cockpit Camera
Passengers aren’t the only people who are being watched by cameras during a flight. There are also cameras in the cockpit on some airlines, in order to increase the amount of information which is at the disposal of air investigators in the event of an accident.
Black box recordings can provide a lot of information, but a film of what was going on in the cockpit could help to answer a lot of questions about some of the past air accidents which have yet to be resolved. Many pilots are unhappy about the thought of being watched by their bosses, but safety concerns win out every time.
13 Crowbars (Or Axes!)
Considering that metal cutlery has been banned from planes on security grounds, it will probably come as a surprise to many travelers to learn that aircraft often have crowbars or even axes on board. If the plane’s doors are unable to be opened in the conventional way, then the flight crew need to force them open with a crowbar.
Some older planes still have axes on board for the same purpose, despite the obvious security issues, although these potential weapons are at least locked away, out of the reach of passengers.
12 Boeing 787 Can Fly 10,000 Miles On A Tank Of Gas
The Boeing 747 may be the company’s flagship plane, but the new 787 Dreamliner is set to overtake this old favorite thanks to its impressive size and its increased fuel efficiency. In fact, the Boeing 787 is 20% more efficient than the last new plane produced by Boeing, the 767, in 1981.
The Dreamliner can travel an astonishing 10,000 miles on one tank of gas – although that tank of gas does contain at least 34,000 gallons of fuel. 10,000 miles is enough to travel from Sydney, Australia to London in the UK in one go, cutting out the need for stopovers.
11 Vats Of Chemicals
An important part of the safety briefing before take-off are the instructions on what to do if the masks fall from the ceiling, providing an additional supply of oxygen for passengers. This oxygen isn’t loaded onto the plane as oxygen, however, as it would take up far too much space and weigh far too much. Instead, aircraft carry a collection of chemicals, usually sodium perchlorate and iron oxide, which create oxygen when they are mixed together and which is then fed into the masks used by passengers.
In fact, some people say they can smell a sort of burning from the chemical reaction when they first put on the mask.
10 Hole In Middle Window Pane
There are lots of benefits to getting the window seat – not least the chance to enjoy some of the amazing views! However, anyone who has spent a lot of time gazing out of a plane’s window might have been slightly alarmed to notice that there appears to be a tiny hole in the window.
In reality, there is only a hole in the middle of three panes of glass which make up the window in the pressurized fuselage- and it is this tiny hole which helps to maintain the pressure. This bleed hole allows the pressure between the panes of glass to equalize as the aircraft ascends and descends.
9 Hooks On The Wings
Gazing out of the window, passengers might also take some time to look at the wings – if they happen to be in one of those seats with the black triangles, of course! As well as the panels and slats on the wings and the engines, on certain models of planes, passengers might also notice bright yellow hooks on top of the wings.
It might not be immediately apparent what these hooks are for, and the fact is that you don’t want to be in a situation where you find out, as they are only used when the aircraft has to make an emergency landing, and the crew needs to secure the inflatable slide to the wings.
8 A Horn
Flying a plane is very different from driving a car, but there is one unlikely piece of equipment that the two vehicles have in common; a horn. While drivers use their horns to express their road rage, pilots are less likely to use their horn to alert other pilots, but rather to attract the attention of the ground crew – which is why the button for the horn is marked “GND” for ground in the cockpit.
Pilots have also been known to use the horns on their aircraft to clear stubborn birds from the runway when they are trying to take off.
7 Outside Latch On Toilet Door
Ashtrays aren’t the only surprising aspect of airplane toilets. It may surprise even regular air travelers to learn that when they lock the restroom door, it isn’t really locked at all. Or at least not as far as the cabin crew is concerned.
Sneak a peek under the little metal sign which says “lavatory” on the toilet door, and you will find a secret external lock which allows staff to unlock the bathroom from the outside – only to be used in the eventuality that someone is taken ill or if they suspect that someone might have lit up a cigarette!
6 Gas Masks For Crew
Fires on planes are a mercifully rare occurrence, even with all those smokers who can’t resist lighting up a cigarette, but when it comes to dealing with these incendiary incidents, it is the cabin crew that have to put themselves in harm’s way to try and deal with the fire before it gets out of hand.
To that end, there are special gas masks or smoke hoods onboard passenger aircraft for the cabin crew to use when they are using fire extinguishers and blankets to subdue the flames, while they wait for the local fire service to arrive and deal with the incident themselves.
5 Grab Handle Inside Door
There are plenty of handles throughout any aircraft to help passengers, and cabin crew, stay upright even when the plane is flying through turbulence. However, there is one grab handle on a plane which seems to be in a very odd position, just to the side of the exit doors.
This isn’t for travelers, but is for the cabin crew, so that they have something to hold onto in the event of an emergency evacuation. The public tends to panic in these situations, so the grab handle helps the crew to stay upright and safe, while they are seeing passengers safely off the plane.
4 Extra Oxygen Tanks
The last thing anyone wants to see when they’re traveling on a plane is the oxygen masks falling from the ceiling – although, at the same time, those oxygen masks could be enough to save your life if there is a sudden loss of pressure in the cabin! However, there are also some extra oxygen masks on board planes as part of the airline’s first aid kit, in the event that one of the passengers has trouble breathing.
This is different from the oxygen which comes through the masks which might drop from the ceiling in the event of an emergency.
Cabin crew has to deal with an awful lot of hassle from their passengers. Whether it is demanding travelers who constantly press their call buttons or holiday-makers who have had far too much to drink, a job working on an airline is not as glamorous as it might seem.
Air rage incidents are on the increase all the time, and at 37,000 feet there are no police officers to deal with rowdy passengers, which means that the cabin crew has to try and defuse these situations themselves. If any traveler gets too out of control, however, most planes have restraints on board to control anyone who is putting themselves or the plane in danger.
2 Secret Engine In The Tail
While the main engines on a plane are usually pretty easy to spot, not everyone knows that there is also a hidden engine in the tail of most aircraft. This can be spotted just under the tail fin, where you can sometimes see what looks like a hollow tube protruding from the fuselage.
While this engine isn’t able to power the plane in any way, it does have a very important purpose; it provides the spark which starts up the main engines and gets the aircraft off the ground. Without this rear engine, there would be no flight at all.
1 Ashtrays In The Bathroom
This has been banned on most passenger flights for years, since the year 2000 in the USA on all international and domestic flights, and yet the restrooms on planes – even those built after 2000 – still have ashtrays. This isn’t a mistake; it is, in fact, a deliberate attempt to try and prevent smokers who are determined to flout the law from causing too much damage.
Secretly some are most likely to sneak to the bathroom to light up, but if they disposed of their still-glowing butt in a bin full of paper towels, then the plane would soon be dealing with an onboard fire.
Sources: Aero Professional, APH, Mech Stuff, Fox News