Some Aviation Facts

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  • It may comfort you to know 95.7 percent of people involved in plane crashes survive.
  • Two million passengers in the U.S. board more than 30,000 flights every day.
  • The oldest airline still operating under the same name is Dutch airline KLM Royal Dutch Airlines.
  • The BD-5 Micro is the world's smallest jet aircraft. It has a wingspan of 14 to 21 ft. and weighs 358 lbs. Only 100 were made, but many variants still fly today; one famously appeared in the Bond film Octopussy.
  • One of the largest military aircraft, the C-5 stands six stories tall. Its length of 143 feet is longer than the Wright Brothers' first flight of 120 ft.
  • The six engine Antonov An-225 cargo jet is the largest plane in the world. It holds the record for the largest airlifted single item payload of 418,834 lbs. ,and total payload of 559,577 lbs.; equivalent to 20 city buses.
  • The massive four engine, double decker Airbus A380 is the world's largest passenger plane. With 49% more floor space than the next largest passenger plane it seats 532 in a standard three class configuration.
  • Cost cutting is important for airlines. In 1987 American Airlines saved $40,000 by removing 1 olive from each salad served in first class.
  • For most major airlines the pilot and co-pilot are required to eat different meals to avoid the possibility of food poisoning taking out an entire crew leaving no one to fly.
  • Most planes have their country’s flag painted on their tail. The flag usually faces the correct way on the left/port side, and backwards on right/starboard side. This is how the flag would look if flying above the plane in flight.
  • On a three hour flight the human body can lose up to 1.5 quarts of water. 
  • The average service life of a jet airliner is approximately 30-35 years, though there are older aircraft in circulation in certain military and civilian fleets around the world.
  • The 747-400, the most common passenger version in service, is among the fastest airliners in service with a high-subsonic cruise speed of Mach 0.85–0.855 (up to 570 mph).
  • In 1911 Harriet Quimby became the first licensed woman pilot in the U.S.; she was also the first woman to fly across the English Channel.
  • The Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird is the world's fastest airplane flying at Mach 3.3 - thought to be able to outrun a potential missile strike.
  • In 2012 the FAA approved the use of iPads in the cockpit. They replace a pilot's kitbag os paper manuals and maps weighing 35 lbs. When fully implemented American Airlines estimates it could save $1.2 million in fuel.
  • In June 2011 KLM flew the first passenger flight powered by bio-fuel. The Boeing 737-800 carried 171 passengers from Amsterdam to Paris using used cooking oil as part of the bio-fuel mix.
  • The Boeing 767 sucks in enough air during take-off in both of its engines to fill the Goodyear Blimp in 7 seconds.One wind shield or window frame of the Boeing 747-400's cockpit, cost as much as a BMW.
  • Enough material is contained in the tires of a Boeing KC-135 jet tanker-transport's landing gear (eight main gear wheels and two nose wheels) to produce 100 automobile tires.
  • The maximum amount of fuel that a 767-400 can carry, is enough to fill 1,400 minivans.
  • A 777 has over 2.6 million lines of computer code written into its flight systems software this compared to 400,000 on the 747-400.
  • A average 747 has around 150-175 miles of wiring in it.
  • Add together every pilot who's ever flown the supersonic Concorde (now out of service), and there have still been twice as many astronauts.
  • Popular Mechanics reviewed data of every commercial crash between 1971 and 2005 and discovered that those sitting in the tail had a 40% higher chance of survival.
  • In 2003 it was reported there was a 65% jump in the number of birds hitting engines. Thee FAA is studying this as the average jet engine can only handle a strike from birds weighing about 4 lbs. max.
  • Runways are named by a number between 01 and 36, which is generally one tenth of the magnetic azimuth of the runway's heading in degrees.
  • The length of a runway varies widely from airport to airport. The runways at typical international airport are 10,000 to 12,000 feet long, but may be as short as 7,000 feet. 10,000 feet.
  • The A380 has about 4 million parts, with 2.5 million part numbers produced by 1,500 companies from 30 countries around the world, including 800 companies from the U.S.
  • Although wings look rock solid they are designed to flex. During takeoff, the wing of the A380 will flex upward as much as 13 feet.
  • Wings keep an airplane up in the air, but the four forces of flight - lift, thrust, drag and weight are what make this happen. They push a plane up, down, forward, or slow it down.
  • The bend at the end of some wingtips are called winglets or airleons. They reduce wingtip vortices of swirling air from above and below. They produce a performance boost by reducing this drag.
  • On an average day, air traffic controllers handle 28,537 commercial flights, 27,178 general aviation flights (private planes), 24,548 air taxi flights (planes for hire), 5,260 military flights and 2,148 air cargo flights.
  • At 10:35 a.m. on December 17, 1903, Orville Wright flew the Flyer for 12 seconds over 120 feet of ground on Kill Devil Hill just outside of Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.
  • Airline doors and windows are often inset a few millimetres from the fuselage so that they'll expand to be flush with the fuselage during flight.
  • If you look at the top of a jet airliner's wings, you might see a row of small metal tabs standing about one inch tall. These are vortex generators, which help the air follow the shape of the wing during flight.
  • The windows in an airport control tower must be tilted out at exactly fifteen degrees from the vertical to minimize reflections from both inside and outside the control tower.
  • The faster an airplane flies through the turbulence, the more stress it can put on the aircraft, so airlines have "rough air" speed rules instructing pilots to slow down in these conditions.
  • Airplanes often cruise around 35,000 ft. It sounds high, but compare it to the size of the Earth: If the Earth were the size of a typical desktop globe, a plane at that height would be cruising at only 1/10 of an inch off the surface.
  • Commercial pilots who fly on international flights and the flight controllers who the pilots talk to are required to be able to speak English, the international language of flight.
  • Jets leave contrails when hot, humid exhaust from the engines mix with the atmosphere. At high altitudes air is lower in pressure and temperature; water vapor in the exhaust then condenses, like your breath on a cold day.
  • Once made only from aluminum, airplane manufacture includes carbon fiber re-inforced plastic, fiber glass, Kevlar, and titanium. The Boeing B787 Dreamliner has a complete carbon fiber skin.
  • The pilots can only see about half the wing from the flight deck, and can't see the tail at all. In the Airbus A380 there is a camera mounted in the tail; both pilots and passengers can now see that view.
  • To withstand the landing weight of a fully laden jumbo jets, commercial airport runways are between two and four feet thick, usually with layers of asphalt. Taxiways are often less thick, around 18 inches of concrete.
  • In 1959 the Hiller X-18 was the first plane with tipable wings allowing for a vertical take-off. The Marines now operate an F-35B capable of vertical take off - but rarely uses that feature due to the extreme fuel burn.
  • Window shades are open during take-off and landing in case of accidents. It allows passengers and flight attendants to see if there is fire and, if there is, which exits to use or not use.
  • Capt. Lowell H. Smith and Lt. John P. Richter performed the first mid-air refueling on June 27, 1923, from a plane flown by 1st Lt. Virgil Hine and 1st Lt. Frank W. Seifert. Both were Airco DH-4B biplanes.

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