In 2018, most people are probably quite well versed in the business of air travel, from knowing where you’d be most comfortably seated on a plane, to understanding common airborne occurrences like turbulence and screaming children.
The inside of a cabin is also a familiar space. You know where to pop your hand luggage, and how the seatbelt works. You also know to avoid the aisle seat at all costs if you value your elbows.
According to The Telegraph, however, the following list of little-known features “should surprise even the most frequent of fliers”.
1. The black triangle
If you prefer a window seat, you may have noticed a little black triangle above the window nearest the wing.
“The black triangle marks the location of what has been called the ‘William Shatner Seat’, or the seat with the clearest view of the wing,” explained retired aerospace engineer Lee Ballentine after the question was posed on the website Quora. “The Shatner reference is to one of the strangest Twilight Zone episodes, Nightmare at 20,000 Feet. In it, Shatner’s character sees a gremlin on the wing of the plane he’s a passenger on.”
If the cabin staff need to check on the status of the wing, this is the window that they use.
2. The bleed hole
Everyone has noticed the little hole in the window of the plane, which seems to defy logic. Turns out it’s keeping us safe.
That’s because air inside a plane is pressurised, which places an enormous strain on the windows. The inside pane – the one you may have woken up against from time to time – is largely superficial, meaning the middle pane and outer pane are taking the brunt of the pressure. Cue the “bleed hole”, which relieves some of that pressure.
3. The secret bedroom
Most aircraft designed for long-haul services have a secret bedroom where cabin crew can catch up on some sleep, or take a break.
4. A button to give you more space
The armrest next to the aisle isn’t actually fixed in place. If you require a few more millimetres of space for your hips, it can be raised. Simply seek out the small button underneath the armrest, towards the back.
5. The hidden latch that opens the loo door
The bathrooms on a plane can be unlocked from the outside which is great news for all you nervous bathroom-goers out there.
A hidden latch, sometimes behind the “no smoking” sign, allows flight attendants to access a locked lavatory in an emergency.
I don’t feel great about the fact that that’s public knowledge now.
6. The nifty handrail
A lot of planes have a handrail that makes it a little easier to navigate your way to the bathroom mid-flight and mid-bottle of wine. This means that every idiot who has used your headrest to steady themselves had an alternative method that they didn’t use.
7. Little yellow wing hooks
This curious feature found on many plane wings could help save you in the event of an emergency landing on water.
If passengers evacuate the aircraft to stand on the wing, as was the case during the so-called Miracle on the Hudson, a rope may be secured between the door hatch and these hooks. It provides something for fleeing passengers to hold on to so they don’t slip off the wing and into the water.
8. A cocktail of chemicals
You know those masks that drop down if anything goes wrong? Turns out they don’t exactly provide you with oxygen.
Oxygen tanks are heavy and bulky so aircraft use a more complicated system. The panel above each seat actually contains a cocktail of chemicals that, when burned, release oxygen. They might include barium peroxide, a fine white powder used in fireworks, sodium chlorate, more commonly used as a weedkiller, and potassium chlorate, a staple of school science lab experiments (it reacts violently with sugar).
And yes, these chemicals are kind of dangerous. The crash of ValuJet Flight 592 in 1996, in which all 110 on board died, was caused by an oxygen generator fire.
9. Pointless ashtrays
Despite the fact that smoking on an aircraft has been banned for the last 20 years, you’ll still find ashtrays on modern aircraft. Why? Probably to torment smokers with what they can’t have on a 12-hour flight. It’s also just in case someone lights a sneaky smoke and they need somewhere to safely dispose of it.
10. Grab handles on the exit
Plane doors feature a seemingly pointless handle on the inside. What’s it for? Well, in the event of an emergency evacuation, passengers tend to get a bit panicky. So the flight attendant overseeing their rapid departure, out of the door and down the emergency slide, is given something to hold on to, lest they be barged out of the way and down the slide before the evacuation is complete.
11. Gas masks (but not for you)
Cabin crew get gas masks in the event of a fire, but passengers don’t. This is because the cabin crew are actually involved in fighting the fire and also have to stay on board the plane while passengers are evacuated.
12. Handcuffs and defibrillators
Passengers can be the worst, or just unhealthy, so the handcuffs and medical supplies are there to assist. The handcuffs used for unruly passengers would probably be plastic rather than metal, and the defibrillator is there to assist if someone needs to be revived.
There you have it. Now you can bore the person next to you on your next flight with aircraft trivia.
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