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8 Airplane Myths The Movie Industry Made Us Believe


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#1 pete_c

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Posted 06 May 2019 - 07:14 PM

Behind the scenes   |  by Jonathan Franklin | August 7, 2018

Who doesn’t love a good movie? Nothing to take the edge off a stressful day like losing yourself in political intrigue, holding your breath during an intergalactic battle scene, or tearing up as long lost lovers reunite. But as a pilot, nothing spoils my fun like a bad airplane movie myth. These frankly ridiculous plot devices might make for a thrilling film, but have many travellers cowering in their seats. Time to set the record straight and debunk some myths.

1. Airplanes are full of secret crawl spaces

Worst offender of this urban myth: Flightplan, which features Jodie Foster on a frantic search through the secret airplane catacombs, making Labyrinth look a morning stroll to the bathroom. In reality, on board real estate is at a premium. Every square centimeter is put to good use ­– leg room is saved for the passenger cabin. There are some larger aircraft that have access to the cargo hold, but only if you move some seats aside and roll back the carpet. And trust me – there’s no hidden maze beneath your seats.

2. Lose an engine and it’s all over

This one always gets my goat. Even single-engine aircraft can easily survive losing an engine; there are plenty of examples of planes losing their only engine and gliding in safely for a powerless landing. As for aircraft with two engines or more? Double as safe. Even if an engine fails during takeoff, pilots have a trained response to make it back to the ground in one piece – and, in fact, an airplane can fly safely with just the one engine.

3. Turbulence? The cabin lights will flash dramatically, the oxygen masks will drop!

My mom – bless her – clings onto the armrests for dear life at the first sign of disturbance. But although many people are afraid of it, turbulence is a natural consequence of flying. The earth’s atmosphere is rarely perfectly smooth, and turbulence is simply the result of the many variations in airspeed, direction, and density. Think of it like bumps in the road. Airplane’s wings are tested to withstand 150% of the maximum stress they will ever encounter – compared to that, turbulence is a piece of cake.

4. A hole in the side of the plane will suck everyone out

We can thank Final Destination, Air Force One and even James Bond for this particular fear. While it’s true that the air pressure outside is lower than inside the aircraft, it’s not enough to go full vacuum cleaner the moment you pop a hole in the side of the plane. After the initial rush of air (which will be about strong enough to blow around loose leaves of paper), the pressure will equalize and the air will just rush past the hole. Sure, it’ll be cold, it’ll be noisy and not all that pleasant – but no baddies will be sucked into oblivion while 007 is (literally) hanging from the rafters.

5. Airplane doors can be opened in flight

Maybe back in 1932, when aircraft weren’t pressurized yet. Modern aircraft however are pressurized, and are designed to use this to their advantage. As the airplane climbs, the difference in pressure increases and the plug doors seal themselves shut. To open the door in flight, you’d need to be able to move 24,000 pounds of pressure – which comes down to about 6 cars or 2 fully grown elephants. Unless you have a team of strongmen at the ready, that door ain’t moving.

6. The fuel tank is a ticking time bomb, waiting to blow

As a pilot, Con Air was hilarious. The scene where the airplane barrels down the Las Vegas strip, losing its wings and leaving a fuel-infused inferno behind still makes me giggle. Airplane fuel is only flammable when it’s sprayed; jet engines have complex nozzles and air swirlers in their combustion sections. The fuel is actually designed to be quite flame resistant as a liquid – you could use it to douse a lit match. That waterfall of kerosene gushing from the airplane is more likely to extinguish a stray cigarette butt on the road than to cause an explosion.

7. Lightning will blow up the plane

Airplanes actually get struck by lightning more often than you’d think. On average, every airplane gets hit by lightning once a year; this comes down to more than 50 strikes a day, worldwide. And while it can be pretty frightening for passengers, in reality it’s not a big deal. Since the loss of a PanAm Boeing 707 due to lightning in 1962, all aircraft have been designed to properly deal with it. There’s no chance of it overloading the on board electrical systems or creating a spark in the fuel tank. Airplanes are designed to conduct the electricity around the outside of the cabin and fuel tanks; they become part of the lightning bolt’s route to the ground.

8. Losing the autopilot will cause the aircraft to crash

In Cabin Pressure, the flight’s autopilot gets hacked, causing the crew to lose control over the airplane. Ridiculous, if funny. In reality, every aircraft system is designed with multiple levels of safety and the autopilot is no exception. Commercial passenger aircraft have two to three separate autopilot computers, each which can fly the airplane on their own. And even if that fails – pilots are actually trained to fly a plane, not just control the autopilot. Think of the autopilot as a trained monkey that turns the crank on a mechanical organ. If the monkey passes out, the pilot can turn the crank themselves.

So that’s Hollywood debunked for you. I hope I haven’t ruined too many movie moments for you, but on the other hand, you might feel a lot more comfortable the next time you get stuck in turbulence. If you want to watch a good airplane movie, I would have to recommend one of my favorites, which for all its stupid gags is pretty accurate: the eighties classic Airplane! Yes, I’m serious – and don’t call me Shirley.



#2 linuxha

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Posted 07 May 2019 - 08:23 AM

I hate turbulence, not the rough road type but the lets suddenly drop several feet type (I experienced this on a landing at Newark over the apartments). For that reason I keep the seat belt on. It won't keep things from flying but more than a couple of times it's kept me in my seat.

 

Now, my favorite flight was a flight into MIA where I sat in the back with a family who had carry on chickens. While the chickens were pretty quiet, by the time we landed the feathers were everywhere. And as we've deboarding the plane the lights went out and the cabin began to fill with smoke. I didn't panic but I did note where I was in reference to the exit (behind me, at the wings and in front of me).

 

Luckily I haven't had to fly anywhere in the last decade. I hate the amount of time wasted in an airport.



#3 pete_c

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Posted 07 May 2019 - 08:52 AM

In the 90's did a vacation to Florida with wife and two children around 10 and 11 at the time.  5 seats across wife and I always sat in the isle seats.  Children sat in the window seats and that flight a young girl around my sons age sat in one middle seat.

 

We were about half way from Chicago to Florida and daughter noticed smoke and flames coming from one engine on my son's side of the plane.  Daughter went in to a sort of panic reading and studying mode of all of the back of the seat reading material in case of emergency.  Young lady next to my son panicked a bit and started to bug my son who was buried in a hand held video game.  Son never looked up and seemed oblivious to it all.  Flames / fire was put out and pilot announced that the plane could fly just fine for the reminder of the flight to Florida.   We landed safely and deboarded on the tarmac via sliding ramps in the presence of many fire trucks.  Kids never much mentioned it afterwards.

 

Bringing this up noting how much different the behavior was between the two children.  Today their unique behavior is still the same.

 

This is one of many little flight adventure stories that I remember...



#4 pvrfan

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Posted 08 May 2019 - 07:38 AM

As the old adage says:

 

"If you can keep you head while all about you are losing theirs...

 

perhaps you don't understand the situation very well!"

 

;)

 

Craig



#5 mikefamig

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Posted 09 May 2019 - 08:20 AM

Airplane fact:

 

The only rime you have too much fuel is when you're on fire.



#6 mikefamig

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Posted 09 May 2019 - 08:22 AM

Question:

"How far can an airplane fly with no engine?"

 

Answer:

All the way to the scene of the crash.



#7 42etus

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Posted 09 May 2019 - 11:47 AM

Fact:

 

You don't need a parachute to skydive...........

 

You only need a parachute to skydive again



#8 linuxha

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Posted 09 May 2019 - 09:20 PM

Fact:
 
You don't need a parachute to skydive...........
 
You only need a parachute to skydive again

Unless you're lucky! ;-)

#9 Neurorad

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Posted 09 May 2019 - 11:09 PM

If you like guitar rock, and improvisational music - 

 

(warning - explicit lyrics)

 

https://www.youtube....h?v=CzdPbMDnvaE

 

Band: moe. 

Song: Plane Crash

 

This is one of the shorter versions of this song

 

Up in the sky 
It's a bird, 
It's a plane
Yea, it's a plane.
I'm not afraid to fly,
I'm not afraid,
Yea, I guess I'm afraid.
Fear is a good thing,
It teaches us humility,
And it can keep us sane.
So I'll fly high if I have to,
If I could, I'd take the train.
Livin' away from home on the road all the time ah,
All the time
I've been up and down and back and forth,
No reason or rhyme, yea you guessed right.
Makes a grown man confront his fears,
Consider options, he'd normally decline.
I'm gonna find my ticket to fly, 
I'm gonna fly, I'm gonna fly-high
Strap me in, tie down,
and roll me a bone
I'm gettin on an airplane, 
and I'm flyin home
Strap me in, tie down,
I'm learning to fly
Travel cross the country, 
I get too fuckin high
(Too fuckin high)
I don't want to die
(Too fuckin high)
Too fuckin high
(Too fuckin high)
Too fuckin high
(Too fuckin high)
Yeah
Yeah, they fly so high, 20, 30 thousand,
That's pretty high
When they take off, 
my chest sinks, 
my ears pop,
I pray, I lie
I think about the network news that tortured myself,
And to pass the time,
I hear tell my seat cushion is a flotation device,
Pray to god they ain't lyin'
Strap me in, tie down,
and roll me a bone
I'm gettin on an airplane, 
and I'm flyin home
Strap me in, tie down,
I'm learning to fly
Travel cross the country, 
I get too fuckin high
(Too fuckin high)
I don't want to die
(Too fuckin high)
Too fuckin high
(Too fuckin high)
Too fuckin high
(Too fuckin high)
Yeah
I don't want to die
(Too fuckin high)
Too fuckin high
(Too fuckin high)
Too fuckin high
(Too fuckin high)
Too fuckin high high high
Yeah
Songwriters: Francis Timothy Hatch


#10 pvrfan

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Posted 10 May 2019 - 06:52 AM

Question:

"How far can an airplane fly with no engine?"

 

Answer:

All the way to the scene of the crash.

 

Not necessarily so:

 

https://en.wikipedia...ki/Gimli_Glider

 

Craig



#11 mikefamig

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Posted 10 May 2019 - 08:03 AM

Not necessarily so:

 

https://en.wikipedia...ki/Gimli_Glider

 

Craig

 

Yeah, it's just a joke.Airplanes fly on their wing, not their engine. Landing with no engine is called a dead stick landing. I used to fly RC airplanes and would often fly until I ran out of fuel.

 

Mike.



#12 pete_c

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Posted 10 May 2019 - 08:06 AM

For a bit here was traveling to the EU/UK and would fly between cities there.  Switched to using the TGV there and quit flying as it was faster and more comfortable.

 

Here domestically we have no bullet trains and you are left to only flying mostly between cities and today it is not that pleasant of an experience unless you own your own plane.

 

Yes wife here being adventuous has been skydiving and did try the glider thing (being dropped from an aeroplane). 

 

Couldn't get her to scuba dive nor fly with me in a small plane (thinking she didn't trust me much)...



#13 mikefamig

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Posted 10 May 2019 - 08:06 AM

On the other hand, if there is no landing site nearby when you run out of fuel, it is no joke.

 

Mike.



#14 cobra

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Posted 11 May 2019 - 06:11 PM

Behind the scenes   |  by Jonathan Franklin | August 7, 2018

4. A hole in the side of the plane will suck everyone out
We can thank Final Destination, Air Force One and even James Bond for this particular fear. While its true that the air pressure outside is lower than inside the aircraft, its not enough to go full vacuum cleaner the moment you pop a hole in the side of the plane. After the initial rush of air (which will be about strong enough to blow around loose leaves of paper), the pressure will equalize and the air will just rush past the hole. Sure, itll be cold, itll be noisy and not all that pleasant but no baddies will be sucked into oblivion while 007 is (literally) hanging from the rafters.


This is more like half true. Within the last year a passenger was killed being sucked in to a hole in the side of the plane. You probably saw it in the news if you are in the USA. Very unusual accident, but engine threw objects against the plane side that managed to break open the window next to the passenger. She was sucked in to the hole and could not be saved. (Pinned in the hole, unfortunetly, not sucked out of the plane like in the movies.) No one else on the flight was seriously injuried though.

The loose leaves example is a bad one though. Its all pressure and size of hole that determines what happens in an accident like this.

Edited by cobra, 11 May 2019 - 06:13 PM.


#15 pete_c

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Posted 11 May 2019 - 08:05 PM

Understood Cobra.

 

Here worked with a person who was a flight attendant on that Hawaiian airline that the side peeled off the plane.  I think she got caught in the hole or piece of the plane that was left open.

 

Flt_811_damage.JPG

 

Flight 811 took off from Honolulu International Airport at 01:52 local time, with 337 passengers and 18 crew members on board.

During the climb, the crew made preparations to detour around thunderstorms along the aircraft's track; the captain anticipated turbulence and kept the passenger seatbelt sign lit.[1]:2 The plane had been flying for 17 minutes,[not in citation given] as it was passing from 22,000 feet (6,700 m) to 23,000 feet (7,000 m), when the flight crew heard a loud "thump" which shook the aircraft.[1]:2 A second and a half later, the forward cargo door blew off. The door swung out with such force that it passed its normal stop and slammed into the side of the fuselage, bursting the fuselage open. Pressure differentials and aerodynamic forces caused the cabin floor to cave in, and ten seats (G and H of rows 8 through 12) were ejected from the cabin.[1]:8[2] All eight passengers seated in these locations were killed (seats 8G and 12G were unoccupied), as was the passenger in seat 9F.[1]:109[2] A gaping hole was left in the aircraft, through which a flight attendant in the business-class cabin was almost blown out of the aircraft. Passengers and crew members saw her clinging to a seat leg and were able to pull her back inside the cabin, although she was severely injured. Senior flight attendant Laura Brentlinger hung on to the steps leading to the upper deck, and was dangling from them when the decompression occurred.

The pilots initially believed that a bomb had gone off inside the airplane, as this accident happened just two months after Pan Am Flight 103 was blown up over Lockerbie, Scotland. They began an emergency descent in order to reach an altitude where the air was breathable, while also performing a 180-degree left turn to fly back to Honolulu.[1]:2 The explosion damaged components of the on-board emergency oxygen supply system, as it was primarily located in the forward cargo sidewall area, just aft of the cargo door.

The debris ejected from the airplane during the explosive decompression damaged the Number 3 and 4 engines[1]:4–8 Engine 3 was experiencing heavy vibration, no N1 reading, and a low EGT and EPR, so the crew shut it down.[1]:2 At 02:20, an emergency was declared and the crew began dumping fuel to reduce the aircraft's landing weight.[1]:2 The N1 reading of engine number 4 soon fell to almost zero, its EGT reading was high, and it was emitting flames, so they shut it down as well.[1]:2 Some of the explosively ejected debris damaged the right wing's leading edge, dented the horizontal stabilizer on that side, and damaged the vertical stabilizer.

 

She switched to working at the HQ of the airline and I worked with her on a project.  She was disfigured having scars from the injury on her face, arms and legs (from what I could see).  Guessing she got a job for life with the airline is what I had heard from peers.

 

I got a bit involved in post 2001 security and what if stuff...I still have vivid memories of this stuff which some times bugs me...






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