Aviation travel has revolutionized the modern world. Exploring new places and visiting family around the globe has never been easier or more affordable thanks to hundreds of commercial and private airlines. Yet the science and engineering behind airplanes remains largely unknown to the average flyer. Next time you board a plane, think about these six interesting aircraft facts you may not have known.
Lightning Won’t Affect the Plane
It’s natural to be afraid to fly during a thunderstorm, but, rest assured, that a bolt of lightning would not down your plane. Since technological advances in aviation engineering in 1963, no plane has crashed because of lightning. Lightning strikes airplanes on a regular basis, without damaging the plane or even affecting the flight. Modern planes are completely lightning-proof, with material and systems that won’t breakdown from electric shocks.
Most Crashes Occur At Takeoff or Landing
Research shows that about 80% of plane crashes occur within the first three minutes of takeoff and the last eight minutes before the plane lands. Aviation accidents are most likely to occur when the plane is on or near the ground or near other aircraft. Staying vigilant in these time frames could improve your chances of survival should anything happen. Take heart, however – the odds of getting into a plane crash are about one in 11 million.
The Wings Don’t Make the Plane Fly
The wings of an airplane certainly play a part in how the aircraft stays in the sky, but they aren’t the only forces of flight. There are actually four forces that push the plane up, down, forward, or back – the lift, thrust, drag, and weight. The bends you see at the ends of some wings are “winglets.” They serve to reduce vortices of air that swirl above and below the wings. Winglets boost a plane’s performance by reducing drag.
They Aren’t Only Made of Aluminum
Back in the day, all airplanes were made only from aluminum. Today, however, plane manufacturers mix fiberglass, carbon fiber reinforced plastic, Kevlar, and titanium in the building of airplanes. Most planes still use aluminum, which is strong yet lightweight. However, manufacturers also use other metals, such as titanium and steel. One aircraft, the Boeing B787 Dreamliner, has a completely carbon fiber skin.
Planes Can Last Around 30-35 Years
The aviation industry doesn’t retire jet airliners until the end of their lifespans, at about 30 to 35 years depending on maintenance and wear and tear. In military and civilian fleets around the globe, some aircraft are even older. With proper care and maintenance, the average jet airliner will operate just as well at the end of its career as the beginning.
You’re Safest in the Back
Popular Mechanics reviewed commercial airplane crash data from 1971 to 2005, and their researchers found the safest place to sit on a commercial plane is in the back of the airbus. Looking at the hard data, Popular Mechanics found that the farther back you sit, the better your chances for survival in an accident. Passengers in the back of the plane are about 40% more likely to survive than the rows in the front. Researchers came to this conclusion after poring over hundreds of reports and calculating the average seating position of survivors and fatalities in every single commercial crash in a 36-year period.