Airplane Trivia: 7 Fun Airplane Facts in the History of Aviation

All throughout history, taking to the skies has been the dream of many. From the moment the Kitty Hawk lifted off the ground on December 17th, 1903, the world of aviation has advanced at a break-neck pace. What was once though a fool’s dream is now a common place occurrence. The modernization of air travel might have taken some of the wonder and whimsy from the pioneering days out of flight, but the journey from then to now has been an eventful one. There are many things about the world of aviation that might surprise you.

Here are seven airplane facts and trivia for aviation lovers:

Fact #1: The Wright Brothers Were First Because They Were Underdogs

Orville and Wilbur Wright are two of the most well-known names in the history of aviation technology. Their development of heavier-than-air flight was a revolution in transportation the likes of which we may never see again. The brothers were simple bicycle manufacturers before their foray into aviation. This gave them an advantage over big competitors, who would thoroughly re-design after every failed attempt. The brothers were much quicker, making gradual tweaks to their planes and continuing to work towards a functional prototype. They achieved flight first thanks to this rapid pace.

Fact #2: Lightning Strikes Planes All the Time

You might think that a lightning strike would be a catastrophic disaster for an aircraft, but you’d be wrong. An interesting fact is that airplanes are struck by lightning routinely – about once for every 1,000 hours of flight. Modern airplanes are designed in such a way that lighting is virtually harmless. When lighting strikes the top of the plane, the charge simply travels around the sides to the underbody. This allows the charge to leave the body of the plane. This design practice isn’t even all that new. Lightning hasn’t downed a plane since the early 1960s when the new designs were being implemented.

Fact #3: The Fastest Commercial Plane Ever Built

The fastest aircraft that ever offered commercial flights was the British-French Concorde. This speedy airliner had a top speed of over twice the speed of sound. Today, commercial aircraft never fly above the speed of sound at all. That said, there has been continuous movement towards faster air travel. At one time, a flight from New York to London took just 2 hours and 52 minutes using supersonic jets operated from 1976 to 2003. No other plane has offered supersonic flights unfortunately. These planes faced a number of issues, including prohibitive costs and restrictions to cross-ocean flights. The planes also couldn’t fly over populated areas due to the loud sonic boom.

Fact #4: The Sheer Quantity of Air Traffic

It’s not terribly uncommon to look up into the sky and see an airplane, even if you aren’t particularly close to an airport. This is because of the massive number of airplanes that are in the skies at any given time. For the United States, this number is usually at least 5,000. Worldwide there are around 8,000 planes in the sky at any given moment. It’s no wonder planes are such a common sight. Every single day there are over 100,000 flights worldwide. That’s more than one lift-off for every second of every day. Truly the scale of modern air travel is staggering.

Fact #5: The Illusion of Privacy

A lot of movies and television shows have shown a character locking themselves into the bathroom of an airplane. The crew is always powerless to reach them, whether they are trying to stop some dastardly plot or help with some emergency situation. This scenario simply isn’t realistic. The flight crew have the ability to open the bathroom door whenever they want. A switch near the door activates and de-activates the lock mechanism, allowing the flight crew to barge in whenever it’s required.

Fact #6: Failsafe

The design of modern aircraft contains countless redundancies and duplicate equipment present to kick in the moment the primary unit fails. One such piece of duplicate equipment is the co-pilot who is there just in case something should happen to the pilot. In order to ensure that this system doesn’t break down, the pilot and co-pilot can’t eat the same meal during the flight. This is to ensure that, if one of the available meals happens to be tainted or poisoned, the plane will still have at least one functional pilot.

Fact #7: Mood Lighting

You might have noticed that during take-off and on landing, the lights on the plane are dimmed. There are a lot of possible explanations to this – maybe the landing gear uses a lot of power, like how rolling down an electric window will dim your car’s headlights, or maybe it’s for ambiance. The actual reasoning behind dimming a plane’s lights however is much more serious in tone. The lights are kept dim during take-off and landing because these are the most dangerous times during any flight. If there’s an emergency of some sort, the lights might go out. In the event that this does happen, dim lighting helps the eyes adjust quicker to the dark.

Ronald Ryan

I'm a self-proclaimed science geek and all-around nerd. Useless fun trivia seems to be my forte. If you ever need to hear a good dad joke, I'm your guy!

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