Feeling like a quick trip down to the Bahamas to soak up the rays? Hop on a plane. Craving some Belgian waffles and want to try them at the source? Yep, hop on a plane. You get the point - if we want to skip across from country to country, especially in this hectic, go-go-go world, aircraft are the fastest and often smartest option.
These planes, however, and the entire air travel industry, are seriously complex systems. So while it might just seem like it's all stale pretzels and teenie, tiny toilets, there's actually so much more going on behind the scenes, to which the average passenger is oblivious.
So, when we're sailing across the skies in a big metal bird at 37,000 feet, here are a few things that only the pilots know.
20 SECRET BEDROOMS
Even though these sneaky hideaways are usually only found on the larger jets, we're still pretty darn jealous that we don't get to use them. When the cabin crew and pilots aren't handing out tiny packets of peanuts or flying the plane (both of which are equally important), they can head up to this exclusive bedroom, usually found behind the cockpit.
19 A SNEAKY LAVATORY LATCH
Just when you thought you could go about your business in peace in the luxury 2-foot by 2-foot lavatory, think again. On most aircraft, if pilots or cabin crew are suspicious of any dangerous behaviour happening in the John, there's a little latch that allows them to unlock (and lock) the door from the outside. At the end of the day, it's primarily a safety measure.
18 TEENIE TINY WINDOW HOLES
While pilots certainly wouldn't want passengers to be aware of the fact that the jet's windows actually boast holes, for fear of a giant freak-out, they serve a genuinely important purpose. The little holes are known as bleed holes, acting as a safety valve to help with the difference in air pressure.
17 ONBOARD GAS MASKS
Alright, the idea of a gas mask on board an aircraft might seem like something straight out of a horror film, however its presence is strictly in the name of safety. If a fire happens to break out while the plane's in the air, it's there for the flight attendants to slide on and move around the cabin as needed.
If there's ever a passenger onboard so unruly that they get to the stage where they need to be physically restrained, you better believe that there's a pair of handcuffs on board. While they might not always be the metal variety - they might be some basic cable ties instead - they're still there, not far out of reach for pilots and cabin crew to lay down the law.
15 TEENIE WEENIE BLACK TRIANGLES
Just above one of the passenger's window seats is a little black triangle that acts as an indicator for cabin crew. It's colloquially known as William Shatner's Seat, and is essentially a symbol for the window that has the best view of the plane's wing. If there's anything to worry about, this seat has the best eyeline.
14 AIR MARSHALLS
What's an air marshall? It's essentially an undercover security guard that patrols the skies. Often they're armed with a weapon, but they'll only be used in extreme circumstances, of course. You'll never know if you're sitting next to an air marshal unless something has gone horribly wrong and they need to act.
13 AN AXE
Yep, just in case you were planning to chop down some trees mid-flight, you're in luck. In reality, though, these axes are safely stored in the cockpit and are only used in extreme circumstances, if cabin crew needs to break through panels in the event of an electrical fire. These days, plenty of airlines have replaced axes with crowbars.
12 YELLOW WING HOOKS
These cute little hooks are simply for decoration, up until the event of an emergency landing in one of the seven seas. They serve as a way to hook ropes down the wing, which gives passengers something to hold onto as they make their way down the wing to the inflatable rafts or slides.
11 A PRETTY EMPTY FUEL TANK
There's nothing worse than cruising down the highway only to have your car's engine splutter and fizz before conking out on the roadside without any fuel. Well, it's a heck of a lot worse when you're 37,000 feet in the air. With a pure money-saving mentality, plenty of airlines pack the plane with barely enough fuel, just the right amount to get to their destination.
10 LIGHTNING SHIELDS
Anyone out there with a little fear of flying will feel a heck of a lot worse if they find themselves in a lightning storm. The thing is, in actual fact, planes get hit by lightning all the time. Pilots would prefer that guests remain oblivious to this, but at least if they are aware, they know they're not at risk
9 A CAMERA IN THE COCKPIT
In the name of safety, cameras have been installed in a handful of cockpits across different airlines and different aircraft models. Plenty of pilots aren't too happy about it, claiming that it's an invasion of privacy, but at the end of the day, if it helps keep everything A-OK, then it's justified.
8 AN UNEVEN SAFETY SEAT PLAN
Yep, that's reassuring, isn't it? When flying in the skies at over 35,000 feet, it can be pretty unsettling to learn that certain aircraft seats are actually safer than others, which means, of course, that some are more at risk. Typically the front of the plane (often First Class and Business Class) is the most vulnerable, while those stuck at the back near the smelly toilets have the best chance of coming out unscathed.
7 FIRE EXTINGUISHERS
In a similar vein to the gas masks, axe, and handcuffs, the fire extinguisher is only on board for the purpose of safety. There are usually two types of fire extinguisher within reach, one which uses liquid gas, and the other which is water-based. It's another one of those items that passenger hope that they'll never see being used.
6 LIMITED OXYGEN IN BAGS
We've all heard the safety speech time and time again - in the event of blah blah blah, oxygen masks will drop from the panel above your head. What they don't tell passengers, however, is that there's only about 15 to 20 minutes of oxygen actually available to flow through them. The thing is, that's enough time to lower the plane to an altitude where they're no longer necessary.
5 AN ALL-POWERFUL PILOT
Pilots would certainly prefer just to do their jobs, fly the plane from A to B, take a selfie with a couple of young passengers, and go on their merry way. However, in the event where there's some serious misconduct from passengers, the pilot can issue fines and even place the passenger under unofficial arrest. So, make sure to stay in their good books.
4 GERMS, GERMS, AND THEN MORE GERMS
It's no revelation that airplanes can induce a few coughs and sneezes from time to time, but passengers don't tend to realise the gross extent of it all. According to The Telegraph, “if you are seated within a row or two seats of an infected passenger you have an 80 percent chance of catching a bug no matter which type of seat you are in.” No wonder the pilots sit separately...
3 A POSITIVITY FILTER - "EVERYTHING'S OKAY, WE PROMISE"
While this isn't a physical feature of the aircraft, it's certainly a feature of the process of flying. If the plane's on fire, you can bet your bottom dollar that the pilot will play it down to something like 'technical difficulties' or 'a lack of packeted pretzels'. They always keep their announcements positive, and you'll never hear them say the words crash, fire, explosion, or malfunction.
2 AUTOPILOT (THE PILOTS AREN'T EVEN FLYING)
Even though our beloved pilots would never openly admit it, the reality is that the aircraft's autopilot function legitimately does the majority of the actual flying. The pilots will handle take-off and landing, but as soon as the jet reaches cruising altitude, they can kick up their feet and let the machine do all the work. Heck, they even take rostered naps.
1 A LITTLE PILOT NAPTIME
Yep, while you're eating your stale cookies and watching reruns of The Big Bang Theory, there's a pretty good chance that your pilot is off in snoozeville. Especially on long-haul flights, it's common for the pilot and co-pilot to take rostered, time-restricted naps. Since the plane's autopilot is doing most of the cruising work, passengers wouldn't even know.