On the condition of anonymity, we had a seasoned pilot share some salacious gossip from the flight deck…and no matter how many miles you’ve accumulated, we bet you don’t know all of these confidential bits of aviatory knowledge.
- Flight attendants and pilots don’t talk below 10,000 feet. Your airline host or hostess is not permitted to contact the pilots during this time. In fact, pilots aren’t even allowed to engage in general schmoozing between themselves until they’re above this altitude. Why? Safety. Takeoff and landing are the most intense parts of flying, so pilots need to be fully engaged in completing checks, entering data, and communicating with air traffic control.
- Plane water is not potable. Yes, there are some hygiene regulations in place, but are they really enforced? Depends who you ask. Having spent years doing audits on the procedures used by airlines for servicing toilets and water ports, a word from the wise: never drink the water on the plane. Sometimes the person who removes the waste on the airplane also replenishes the tap water. Gulp.
- The pilots have to eat different meals in the event of food poisoning. Even though airline food safety is taken very seriously, so the likelihood of getting ill from your chicken curry is slim, you don’t want both pilots rushing to the toilet when it comes time to land, right?
- Pilots and flight attendants often don’t switch their phones to flight mode. The European FAA claims that electronic devices pose no safety risks. In fact, a lot of new evidence suggests that the electromagnetic interference produced by cell phones has that much effect on aircraft avionics.
- Clear air turbulence can be really dangerous. You know how the flight attendants always recommend keeping your seat belt fastened even when the sign is off? This is in the event of clear air turbulence (CAT). Though rare, it can happen at any time and is often undetectable by radar. There are photos of events that have occurred during food service, where food was strewn all over the cabin and passengers were covered in it.
- It’s very common for planes to get struck by lightning! In parts of the world where electrical storms are prevalent, like the polar regions and tropics, it’s not unusual for the plane to be flying around big storm clouds. Lightning also seeks out conducting materials like aluminum, so your plane is a prime target. But don’t be alarmed–planes are engineered with this in mind, so the lightning will usually hit one point on the plane, like the wingtip, then travel through the fuselage and leave from another point without actually entering the plane. In fact, you likely won’t even know the plane was hit.
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