Some interesting facts about your next flight to the island.
If you’ve ever landed that coveted window seat for a long flight, your attention has probably wandered to that little hole in the inside window. Like many things on a passenger aircraft, the size and position of that tiny circle has been carefully calculated for a specific function. Airplane windows are composed of three panes of acrylic. The outer, fully solid one, is responsible for maintaining cabin pressure, with the inside one there as a fail safe. That little hole lets the air from the cabin into the space between the windows, ensuring that the middle one isn’t given any stress except in the case of an emergency when the outer one is cracked or otherwise compromised.
Flying through a storm is one of the most panic-inducing things that a passenger can endure, but lightning actually poses very little danger to an airplane. In fact, the FAA estimates that every plane currently in service in the United States gets hit by a lightning bolt at least once a year. An airplane’s outer skin does a great job of letting the electrical charge pass through and on to the ground without damaging its insides, and the only residue are tiny burn marks from the entry and exit points. High winds and booms from thunder are more threatening.
“What’s the deal with airline food” is a comedy set-up so cliché that even the worst hacks won’t use it anymore. But the amazing thing about science is that we now know what the deal is – and it’s not the food. Sure, the pre-packaged meals aren’t the height of gourmet cuisine, but one of the reasons they taste bad is the environment. A study at Cornell University in 2015 measured how people perceive taste in noisy environments. They found that when the subjects were exposed to sounds of about 85 decibels – what you’d get from the engines inside a plane – sweet flavors were dampened and savory ones heightened. In addition, the dry recycled air inside the plane cabin further deadens your taste buds. Because plane meals aren’t made with this in mind, they always taste a little… off.
Pretty much every reputable scientist agrees that the Industrial Age has ushered in a period of environmental change that will raise the Earth’s temperature by several degrees over the next century. One of the many side effects of that is going to be less comfortable flights. Increased carbon monoxide in the atmosphere is rerouting jet streams, high-altitude wind currents created by the temperature differential between the Poles and the tropics. That differential is increasing, making currents stronger and causing a measurable difference in what’s called “clear air” turbulence
Yes, obesity is a public health epidemic and Americans are certainly increasing in size, but that doesn’t completely explain why airplanes seem more and more cramped. The other factor at play here is profit. As airlines struggle to squeeze every penny out of their flights, seating spaces are shrinking so they can pack in more people. A study by travel analyst Bill McGee in 2014 revealed the shocking fact that, since 1990, the space between seats has been reduced by two to five inches. Widths shrink similarly, and since 1995 the load factor of the average plane – the percentage of its capacity it uses on each flight – has increased from 67% to 84%.
If you don’t want to wait half a century for nuclear powered mega planes, guess what? United is going to do a test run from LAX to SFO this summer with a plane powered by garbage – more specifically, bio fuel created from farm waste and animal fats. Obviously finding alternative to fossil fuels is kind of a big deal as we squeeze the last drops of milk out of Mother Earth, and United is leading the charge by investing $30 million into Fulcrum Bio Energy and plans to run regular flights with a 30/70 bio fuel – gas split out of Los Angeles throughout the year.