Airplane Facts
Airplane Facts

72 Interesting Airplane Facts

By Karin Lehnardt, Senior Writer
Published February 18, 2017
  • The wings of the airplane are just one component of flight. There are actually four forces of flight that push the plane up, down, forward, or slow it down. These four forces of flight are lift, thrust, drag, and weight.[2]
  • The Wright brothers invented and flew the first airplane in 1903. It is considered the world’s first “sustained and controlled heavier-than-air powered flight.” Their aircraft, the Wright Flyer, flew about 120 feet. Today, the newest Boeing 787 can fly 10,000 miles on a single tank of gas.[3]
  • One the most deadly airplane accidents actually happened on the ground. In 1977, two fully loaded planes carrying a total of over 600 passengers collided head-on in the middle of the runway in what is now known as the Tenerife Accident, named after Tenerife Island where the accident occurred. Over 500 people died.[16]
  • Increases in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are increasing the incidents of airplane turbulence.[5]
  • The oxygen in an airplane’s emergency oxygen masks lasts for only about 15 minutes.[5]
  • English is the international language of flight. All flight controllers and all commercial pilots who fly on international flights are required to speak English.[2]
  • Interesting BD-5 Micros Fact
    Only a few hundred BD-5 Micros have been built
  • The world’s smallest jet is the BD-5 Micro. Its wingspan is 14–21 feet and weighs just 358 pounds.[10]
  • One windshield or window frame of a Boeing 747-400’s cockpit costs as much as a BMW.[2]
  • Most pilots and copilots on major airlines are not allowed to eat the same food to avoid the possibility of food poisoning sickening the entire flight crew.[5]
  • Airport control tower windows must be angled at precisely 15 degrees from vertical at the top to decrease reflections from both inside and outside the tower.[2]
  • The average Boeing 747 has around 150–175 miles of wiring inside it.[2]
  • The C-5, one of the longest military aircrafts, is longer than six stories tall. Its length of 143 feet is longer than the Wright Brother’s first flight of 120 feet.[2]
  • The Boeing 767 sucks in enough air through its engines to fill a Good Year Blimp in 7 seconds.[2]
  • The tires of a Boeing KC-135 jet tanker’s landing gear consist of 8 main gear wheels and two nose wheels. This is enough material to make 100 automobile tires.[2]
  • There have been more astronauts than pilots who have flown the Concorde, which is now out of service. The Concorde was a turbo jet-powered, supersonic passenger jet airliner that was in service from 1976 to 2003. Many consider the aircraft an engineering marvel.[2]
  • For once you have tasted flight you will walk the earth with your eyes turned skywards, for there you have been and there you will long to return.

    - Leonardo da Vinci

  • The first woman in the U.S. to become licensed to fly a play was Harriet Quimby (1875–1912) in 1911. She was also the first woman to fly across the English Channel.[3]
  • Amelia Earhart (1897–1937) was the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean. She also helped created “The Ninety-Nines,” which was an organization for female pilots, who also achieved many other notable accomplishments.[4]
  • Commercial airport runways are typically 2 to 4 feet thick with layers of asphalt. Taxiways are usually thinner, with around 18 inches of concrete.[2]
  • Airplanes typically fly at an altitude of around 35,000 feet. If Earth were the size of a desktop globe, a plane at that height would be flying at only 1/10 of an inch off the surface.[2]
  • The world’s largest passenger plane is the Airbus A380. It is a double-decker four-engine jetliner. It made its first flight on April 27, 2005.[10]
  • The world’s fastest airplane is the Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird, flying at 2,193 miles per hour. It has held the record for nearly 40 years.[3]
  • Random Airplane Facts
    Sitting in the tail of an airplane improves chances of accident survival
  • According to Popular Mechanics, sitting in the tail of an airplane improves chances of accident survival by 40%.[2]
  • The Antonov AN-225 cargo jet is the largest plane in the world. It is nearly as big as a football field from nose to tail and wingtip to wingtip. It was originally built to transport a space plane.[10]
  • Approximately 95.7% of those involved in a plane crash survive it.[2]
  • The amount of fuel that a Boeing 767-400 carries is enough to fill 1,400 minivans.[2]
  • The world’s largest passenger airliner, the Airbus A380, has about 4 million parts.[2]
  • A jet’s contrails (or white trails) consist of water vapor and can be used to predict the weather. A thin, shorter tail indicates low humidity and fair weather. A thick, longer lasting tail signifies the early indication of a storm.[2]
  • A commercial jet has an average cruising speed of 550–580 mph.[2]
  • Known as the “Glider King,” Otto Lilienthal (1848–1896) invented the first gliders that could travel longer distances and carry people. The Wright Brothers cite Lilienthal’s research as a major inspiration for their own work. Berlin’s busiest airport is named after him.[4]
  • The world’s busiest airport is the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, at over 96 million passengers a year. Beijing Capital International Airport is in second place, with more than 86 million passengers a year. However, in the spirit of friendly rivalry, Chicago’s O’Hare is the busiest in the world in terms of take offs and landings.[11][14]
  • Random Airplane Fact
    American Airlines (including US Airways) is the largest by fleet size
  • In the United States, 2 million passengers board more than 30,000 flights—every day.[2]
  • Airbus is working on a transparent plane that would offer passengers a 360-degree view as they fly.[8]
  • The U.S. airline industry makes about $170 billion in revenue each year. The industry constitutes 600 companies, with the top 10 composing over 75% of the industry revenue. The top 10 include American, Delta, and United Continental.[8]
  • Worldwide, the airline industry generates about US$640 billion.[8]
  • The atmosphere in an airplane cabin dries out a person’s nose, and the changing air pressure numbs about 1/3 of a person’s taste buds. This is one reason for airlines adding lots of spices and salt to their foods. Additionally, tomato juice tastes less acidic in the air.[3]
  • The risk of being killed in a plane crash for the average American is 1 in 11 million. The risk of being killed in a car accident is 1 in 5,000.[2]
  • Mercury is not allowed on a flight. Even a small amount of mercury can seriously damage aluminum, which is what most planes are made from. Airplanes that are exposed to mercury are usually quarantined.[8]
  • Between 43% and 54% of pilots surveyed in the U.K., Norway, and Sweden admitted to have fallen asleep while flying a passenger plane. One third of them stated that when they woke up, they discovered that their co-pilots had also fallen asleep.[13]
  • Research shows that the first 3 minutes after takeoff and the final 8 minutes before landing are when 80% of plane crashes happen.[13]
  • Orville Wright did not sit in the Wright Flyer during its first flight. Instead, he lay flat on the lower wing in the middle of the plane.[4]
  • Interesting Airplane Fact
    Neil Armstrong carried a piece of the Wright Flyer with him to the moon

  • About 1 in 5 people have some of fear flying, or “aviophobia.”[7]
  • During a 1994 flight, a mother tragically lost her grip on her infant daughter she was holding on her lap when the aircraft experienced violent gyrations. While the mother survived, her daughter died.[9]
  • In 1987, American Airlines saved $40,000 by removing 1 olive from each salad served in first class.[2]
  • Most airline pilots are paid only for time in the air, which doesn’t include time spent getting to and from the airport, performing preflight duties, or waiting for delayed planes.[13]
  • Studies indicate that those who sit farther than 5 rows away from an exit are less likely to successfully exit an airplane during an emergency.[13]
  • A pilot must have 20/20 vision, with or without corrective lenses, to become a civilian airline pilot.[15]
  • A Boeing 747 can carry about 60,000 gallons of jet fuel, which weighs about 400,000 pounds.[15]
  • Interesting George Cayley Fact
    George Cayley (1773-1857) is widely considered to be the father of aviation
  • Often dubbed the “Father of Aviation,” in 1799 English aviator George Cayley (1773–1857) built the first glider that could go short distances. His early work helped inventors understand the dynamics of flight, and the Wright Brothers acknowledged his importance.[4]
  • A Boeing 747 gets just 0.2 miles to the gallon. However, a 747 usually carries more than 550 passengers—which, of course, affects that statistic.[15]
  • Autopilot is usually turned on during most of an airplane flight. The computer can make more precise adjustments, which leads to better fuel efficiency (except during turbulence). Autopilot is not typically used during takeoff or landing, although it is available to use.[15]
  • The contrails of a plane primarily consist of frozen, crystallized water vapor. They also contain carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxide, sulfate particles, and soot. Some conspiracy theorists claim that the government and military have planted harmful chemicals in contrails.[15]
  • The FAA requires that all airplanes be capable of being evacuated in 90 seconds. It takes only a minute and half for a fire to spread and engulf a plane.[13]
  • Aircraft radar cannot detect turbulence. Turbulence can occur in clear, cloudless weather as well as in bad weather. It is the number one cause of in-flight injuries.[15]
  • Turbulence is caused by several factors, including jet streams and masses of rising hot air. Other causes include currents from storms, other planes, or air passing over mountains.[15]
  • Interesting Flight Attendant Fact
    People fall in love with flight attendants at first sight more than any other profession
  • Research indicates that people fall in love with flight attendants at first sight more than any other professions (including restaurant servers and strippers).[15]
  • If a plane needs to make an emergency landing, a pilot may decide to dump fuel from its wings. While it’s not very common, it is a safety procedure to keep the plane from experiencing an overweight landing. The fuel usually evaporates before it reaches the ground.[15]
  • A woman and her daughter were arrested when they tried to smuggle the woman’s dead husband in a wheelchair onto a plane. They had covered his eyes with sunglasses and told authorities he was just sleeping.[1]
  • If a cabin is pressurized and an airplane door came open in midflight at a high altitude, the sudden opening could cause items and people to get sucked out. However, pressurization in the cabin and a plug-type door (a door that is bigger than the opening), makes it near impossible for even multiple people to open a door during a flight.[15]
  • A 66-year-old man tried to smuggle cocaine on a plane—via a cast made out of the drug. He had even purposefully broken his leg in case airport authorities X-rayed it. He almost got away with his crime, but when authorities found other sources of cocaine hidden in his luggage, they decided to also test the cast.[1]
  • The air on airplanes is filtered by the same technology that filters air in hospitals, so while the tray table may harbor germs, the air is clean.[15]
  • Interesting Airline Facts
    Airline blankets are washed just every 5–30 days
  • Passenger airplanes are notorious germ hotbeds. One study found that 60% of tray tables tested harbored the “superbug” MRSA. Additionally, airline blankets are washed just every 5–30 days.[13]
  • A woman tried to smuggle a baby tiger onto an airplane by sedating it and then placing it in a suitcase with stuffed toy tigers. However, her plan was foiled when the X-ray in the security check showed that one of the “stuffed toys” actually had bones.[1]
  • A woman flying in to Florida tried to smuggle a human head (along with hair, teeth, and skin) from Haiti in order to keep away evil spirits. She was charged with a smuggling a human head into the U.S. without documentation. She was also charged with failure to declare the head and for transporting hazardous material.[1]
  • In 2002, a man tried to smuggle two pygmy monkeys in his underwear onto a plane. He was sentenced to 57 days in jail.[1]
  • According to Maxim magazine, the vibrations of an airplane and the lower oxygen levels can heighten sexual arousal and lead to more intense orgasms. Those who choose to engage in sex on an airplane are said to have joined the “Mile-High Club.”[6]
  • A woman from Stockholm, Sweden, attempted to smuggle 75 live snakes onto an airplane by placing them in her bra. She also had six lizards under her shorts.[1]
  • Interesting Lindbergh Facts
    Charles Lindbergh is arguably the most famous pilot in history
  • Charles Lindbergh is arguably the most famous pilot in history. Nicknamed “Slim,” “Lucky Lindy,” and “The Lone Eagle,” he was an author, inventor, military officer, explorer, and social activist. He was also a friend of Henry Ford, both of whom were anti-Semitic.[1]
  • Charles Lindbergh was the first to fly solo nonstop across the Atlantic Ocean from, New York to Paris, on May 20–21, 1927. The trip covered 3,631 miles and took 33 hours 29 minutes.[1]
  • In 1947, Chuck Yeager became the first person to fly faster than the speed of sound.[4]
  • Between June 14 and 15, 1919, British airmen John Alcock and Arthur Brown made the first nonstop flight across the Atlantic Ocean. They flew from Newfoundland, Canada, to Ireland. Because there was also a small amount of mail on the flight, they also made the first transatlantic airmail flight.[1]
  • In 1986, a plane called Voyager flew all the way around the world without landing or refueling.[4]
  • Plane exhaust kills more people than plane crashes. Approximately, 10,000 people are killed annually from toxic pollutants from airplanes.[12]
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