15 fun facts about airplanes and flying that might surprise you

Travel tips & fun facts

15 fun facts about airplanes and flying that might surprise you

By and
29 June 2020

By and | 29 June 2020

What did people use before there were bathrooms on the planes?

Flying has become a normal part of our everyday lives in the last few decades — even though it’s said that only five percent of the global population has ever been on an airplane. We don’t usually give it much thought, as long as we get safely to our destination. It’s a fascinating business, however, and we’d like to share with you a couple of the most interesting and fun facts about planes and flying.

#1 What navigation lights do airplanes use?

Airplanes use the same navigation lights as ships and boats Group Created with Sketch. Airplanes use the same navigation lights as ships and boats — Shutterstock

Aircraft share the same navigation lights to water vessels, from tiny fishing boats to large container ships. You can find a red (port) light on the left wing and a green (starboard) light on the right wing to signal which way the plane is positioned. 

Interestingly, the word “port” was only used after 1844 when the Royal Navy adopted it in place of the word “larboard”. One would have thought that the common sense to avoid confusion would have come about earlier!

There’s also a white flashing light to signal that the aircraft is on the move, similar to hovercraft or hydrofoils on water which display a flashing yellow light to emphasize the high speed at which the crafts travel.

#2 When did commercial flying start?

On New Year’s Day of 1914, the first scheduled passenger airline took its maiden flight. The route was a 34km hop across Tampa Bay in Florida, and the first passenger was the mayor of St Petersburg, Abram C. Pheil aboard a flying boat.

#3 What is the shortest record commercial transatlantic flight duration?

Concorde set the record flying time from New York to London in 1983 Group Created with Sketch. Concorde set the record flying time from New York to London in 1983 — NYC Russ / Shutterstock

The engineering marvel of the supersonic Concorde aircraft set the record flying between London and New York City on 1 January 1983, with the one-way journey taking 2 hours and 56 minutes.

#4 What is the busiest flight route in the world?

In pre-coronavirus times, the South Korean Seoul–Jeju flight route was the busiest on the planet. In 2018, there were 250 daily scheduled connections on this 449-km-long route, carrying over 14 million passengers a year. The route was so popular that one could board a flight every 15 minutes.

#5 What was the busiest day in aviation history?

Talking about busy… the busiest day recorded in aviation is 24 July 2019, with more than 225,000 flights on that day.

 #6 How much wiring is there on a plane?

Airbus A380 contains 320 miles of cables Group Created with Sketch. Airbus A380 contains 320 miles of cables — Shutterstock

An average Boeing 747 aircraft has over 150 miles (240 kilometers) of wires inside its body, or roughly the distance between Amsterdam and the south of Belgium. The longest wiring, however, that can be found in an airplane is in the double-decker plane Airbus A380 — its 320 miles of cables would stretch as far as Leicester to Glasgow.

#7 Why are passenger windows on airplanes round?

The windows on an airplane are round for a reason. After a series of accidents in the early days of commercial flying, the engineers uncovered that having square windows with sharp corners compromised the safety of the aircraft. On the other hand, round windows used since then can take the repeated pressure during a flight.

#8 What is the fastest airplane in the world?

The Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird is the fastest manned jet aircraft in the world Group Created with Sketch. The Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird is the fastest manned jet aircraft in the world — Shutterstock

Concorde might have been fast but not as fast as the Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird which has held the record of the fastest manned jet aircraft since 1976, flying at 2,193 miles per hour (over 3,500 kph). It’s a type of a military spy plane, operating at high speeds and altitudes (85,000 feet or 25,900 meters above sea level). Developed in the 1960s, the Lockheed SR-71 was designed to be fast enough to outpace missiles.

#9 What was the first plane to travel around the world?

1986 marked a big milestone in aviation history. A homebuilt light-weight aircraft with 17 fuel tanks in total made it around the world without stopping or being refueled once on the way. The Rutan Model 76 Voyager took off in California on 14 December and landed nine days later, just a day before Christmas Eve. The two pilots, the designer, and the crew chief were subsequently awarded the Collier Trophy, the most prestigious prize in aviation.

#10 How long does the oxygen in an emergency mask last?

The oxygen masks provided from above your seat in case of an emergency are designed to give out only 15 minutes of oxygen, enough to allow the pilot to lower the altitude of the plane to a level where the outside air pressure is breathable (around 10,000 feet or 3,000 meters).

#11 What is the dirtiest place on an airplane?

The seat table in front of you is the dirtiest place onboard a plane — Shutterstock Group Created with Sketch. The seat table in front of you is the dirtiest place onboard a plane — Shutterstock

Are you a germophobe? The dirtiest place on a plane was found during recent studies to be the tray table on the back of the seat in front of you. In fact, there were eight times as many bacteria found here when compared to the toilet flush button! Make sure to take some sanitary wipes with you on your next journey.

#12 Were there always bathrooms on planes?

The airplane bathroom has come a long way since the 1930s and 1940s when aviation as we know it was just at its beginnings. At first, there was no separate cabin or a designated area to do the deed, and passengers and the crew would use a paper box, which could spill during turbulence. Pilots would apparently also pee in their shoes or through a hole in the floor of the cockpit.

In the 1930s, the Royal Air Force used a flying boat nicknamed the whistling sh*thouse”. The Supermarine Stranraer was fitted with a toilet that would open directly to the air. When the seat was up the airflow through the toilet would make a whistling sound, hence the nickname.

#13 How long was a flight from London to Singapore in the 1930s?

Today’s flight from London to Singapore takes roughly 12 hours, which might seem like a lifetime to some people. Back in 1934, the same route would have taken eight days and included 22 stopovers to refuel the plane, such as Athens, Baghdad, Calcutta, and Bangkok, among others.

#14 Chicken, beef… or caviar?

Lufthansa purchases more caviar than any company on earth. Their business and first-class passengers munch through 10 tonnes of it every year.

#15 When was the first transatlantic flight?

The first flight crossing the Atlantic ocean took place in 1919 by the US Navy. The entire journey took 24 days and had five legs to it — it started in the state of New York and continued through Nova Scotia, the Azores, Lisbon, and Plymouth, UK.

Not even a decade later, in 1927, Charles Lindbergh became the first person to fly across the Atlantic on a solo, nonstop trip. His plane, the Spirit of St. Louis, took off in New York on 10 May and landed in Paris less than 34 hours later. Lindbergh was 25 years old when he crossed the Atlantic.

Did you enjoy reading this article and want more? How about 11 facts about ships and boats that might surprise you or browse for others on Kiwi.com Stories.

Jana Brnáková

Jana Brnáková

"days like this. like your day today. maybe the rain on the window trying to get through to you. what do you see today? what is it? where are you?" CB

James Tickner

James Tickner

Number-cruncher, artist, sailor, world-traveled TCK