14 Things You Didn't Know About Air Travel

By Spencer Hart on at

Ninety years ago, on the 28th of September 1924, a team of heroic US aviators completed the first round-the-world flight. The journey began 175 days earlier, where four planes set off from Santa Monica, California, on an epic journey which covered 27,533 miles and passed over 27 countries. So what better way to celebrate one of mankind's greatest achievements than with 14 facts about air travel.


This post was originally published on September 25th, 2014, but it was so good that we brought it back for this week's Transport Week.


1.) Enjoy a good sleep during your flight? So do the pilots!

In a survey conducted by pilots' union BALPA, 56 per cent of pilots admitted to falling asleep on the job. Even more worrying than that, 29 per cent admitted to having woken up to find their co-pilot asleep as well!

Bonus Fact: Pilots and co-pilots are required to eat different meals, just in case one meal causes food poisoning. The pilot usually has the first-class meal, while the co-pilot only gets the business-class option (that's a seniority perk right there). [Image Credit: Shutterstock]


2.) There's a reason aeroplane food tastes so strange.

You've been on the plane for hours, starting to get a bit peckish, and then the cabin fills with an excited hum – chicken or beef? chicken or beef?? Well actually it doesn't really matter, because your nose is dry and the pressurised cabin numbs around a third of your taste buds. It might as well be dog food. [Image Credit: Flickr]


3.) In 2003 a stolen Boeing 727 took off and has been missing ever since.

On 25th of May 2003, a Boeing 727 that was in the process of being converted to carry diesel, was hijacked by two mechanics. Just before sunset while the plane was idle, Benjamin Padilla boarded the plane, taxied to the runway and took off without contacting the control tower. The FBI and CIA launched an international search, but neither the hi-jackers nor the plane were ever found. [Image Credit: Wikipedia]


4.) Pilots used to receive 'Blunder Trophies' if they made ridiculous mistakes.

In the 1920s and 1930s, pilots who made silly mistakes such as taxiing into parked aeroplanes or taking off without enough fuel were awarded 'Blunder Trophies'. It's good they can laugh about their mistakes now, but I bet it wasn't so funny at the time! [Image Credit: National Museum of the US Airforce]


5.) There could be 400,000 people in the air at any given time.

That's a lot of people. [Image Credit: Airline World]


6.) More people experience love-at-first-sight with flight attendants than any other profession.

The first flight attendants had to weigh less than 52 kg, as well as being unmarried and trained nurses. Research shows that people are more likely to fall in love-at-first-sight with flight attendants than any other profession (including waitresses or strippers). Perhaps it's the uniform, or maybe it's the fact your life (as well as your alcohol) is in their hands.

Bonus fact: Stewardess is the longest word in the English language that is typed on a QWERTY keyboard with just the left hand. [Image Credit: Shutterstock]


7.) 'D.B. Cooper' pulled off the slickest aeroplane heist in history

In 1971, an unidentified man using the alias 'D.B. Cooper', hijacked a Northwest Orient Airlines Boeing 727. In between Portland and Seattle, Cooper successfully negotiated $200,000 for the release of the passengers on board, then parachuted from the rear of the plane. He was never found, despite an exhaustive FBI manhunt. [Image Credit: Wikipedia]


8.) You could always find yourself travelling next to a dead body.

If someone dies mid-air, flight attendants are advised to place them in a seat (usually first class, the lucky buggers) with a blanket up to their neck. In the past, it was customary to make the corpse appear to be living, with an eye-mask on, a stiff gin and tonic and a newspaper. [Image Credit: Shutterstock]


9.) Thought air travel was the safest form of transport? Think again!

Air travel is actually only the second safest form of transportation, after elevators of course. Unfortunately a transatlantic elevator would take quite a long time. [Image Credit: Shutterstock]


10.) Prince Charles and Prince William never fly on the same aircraft.

On the Queen's request, Prince Charles and Prince William don't fly on the same plane together, just in case the aircraft goes down and Britain breaks into a Game of Thrones-style civil war. [Image Credit: Wikimedia]


11.) The shortest commercial flight in the world is in the Orkney Islands.

Lasting just two minutes, the flight from Westray to Papa Westray is the shortest commercial flight in the world. The distance travelled is shorter than Edinburgh Airport's runway and a return ticket costs just £39. [Image Credit: Westray Papa Westray]


12.) A couple first joined the 'Mile High Club' in 1784.

George Biggin and Letitia Sage could very well be the first members of the Mile High Club, by having sex in a hydrogen balloon over London. When the balloon flew over Piccadilly, people claim to have seen Sage on all-fours, although she vehemently
maintained no bonking went on in the ballon. [Image Credit: Wikipedia]


13.) Rolls-Royce test aircraft engines by firing dead chickens from a cannon.

Rolls Royce built a cannon to fire dead chickens into their engines in order to test how they hold-up against avian collisions. The chickens reach speeds of 186 mph, so it's like a more scientific Angry Birds.

Bonus Fact: British Rail borrowed a similar device to test high-speed train cockpits, but were surprised when the carcass blew through the cockpit and embedded itself deep inside the carriage. When they turned to NASA for advice, NASA simply replied, 'Gentlemen, thaw your chickens'. [Image Credit: Paul Bernal]


14.) Never mind snakes! Watch out for those mother-fuckin' crocodiles!

In 2010, a small plane crashed in Africa after one passenger smuggled a crocodile aboard in a gym bag. When the croc inevitably escaped, it caused havoc mid-flight, with passengers rushing to the front of the plane, causing the pilot to lose control and crash. The accident left two survivors -- one lucky passenger and the crocodile, who was hunted down by villagers with machetes and tragically killed (it wasn't really his fault). [Image Credit: Wikipedia]

[Featured Image Credit: Funniest Five]