Crazy facts about planes that airline workers won't tell you

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The world of commercial aviation is still a complex and mysterious place.

After all, there's nothing normal about being flung across the sky at 500 mph in a pressurized metal tube that's strapped to jet engines — all while you sip on a drink and watch a movie.

There are many are odd things about flying that most passengers don't know.

Here are some things airline workers won't tell you.

1. The oxygen masks don't give you much time to breathe.

The yellow emergency oxygen mask is an essential part of every in-flight safety briefing and all classic airplane disaster movies. "If the aircraft cabin losses pressure, the panel above your seat containing oxygen masks will open automatically," the safety instructions say. "While remaining in your seat, quickly reach for the nearest mask and pull down firmly to start the flow of oxygen."

Ever wonder what happens when you pull down on the mask? In most cases, the action triggers chemical oxygen generators located above each seat. These generators supply supplemental oxygen in times the pressurized environment inside the cabin doesn't provide enough breathable air. Most airliners are pressurized at an altitude of 5,000 to 8,000 feet.

However, these generators are only meant to supply temporary oxygen — usually between 14 and 20 minutes. This is designed to provide enough oxygen in the time it takes the aircraft to descend to an altitude (roughly 12,000 feet or below) with breathable air.

2. It's possible for the plane to run out of fuel.

On August 24, 2001, Air Transat Flight 236 lost power in both its Rolls-Royce turbofan engines while flying over the Atlantic Ocean. The Airbus A330-200 with 301 passengers and crew on board had been on a flight from Toronto, Canada, to Lisbon, Portugal, when a fuel leak drained the jet's fuel tanks.

The flight's pilots managed to glide the 193-foot-long airliner nearly 100 miles to the nearest airport in the Azores Islands. The flight made it to safety with the help of a small emergency windmill called a ram air turbine, or RAT for short.

The RAT uses energy from air rushing by the aircraft to generate electricity — giving the pilots access to important flight instruments and control surfaces of the plane.

Although the the RAT isn't able to actually power the aircraft, it does give pilots much of the most important information they need to fly the plane.

The RAT is located in different areas of the plane depending on the model and the manufacturer of the aircraft. For instance, the RAT is located in the belly of the fuselage of the Boeing 787 pictured above. On the other hand, the turbine is stored in a compartment under right wing on Airbus A340s.

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Crazy facts about planes that airline workers won't tell you

36. YVR - Vancouver International

A traveler arrives at Vancouver International Airport (YVR) in Richmond, British Columbia, Canada, on Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2013. The number of international visitors to Canada plunged 20 per cent since 2000 even as global travel soars, according to a sobering report being released Thursday by Deloitte Canada. Photographer: Ben Nelms/Bloomberg via Getty Images

34. AUS - Austin-Bergstrom

Travelers walk the main concourse at the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport in Austin, Texas, on Friday, Sept. 14, 2007. Jim Smith, who oversees the city-owned airport in Austin, Texas, needed help fast. Mexico's no-frills airline, VivaAeroBus, wanted to make Austin its first U.S. destination, and Smith had no free gate space. (Photo by Jack Plunkett/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

33. YYC - Calgary International

The Air Canada Airbus A319 jet that was forced to land and unload injured passengers at Calgary International Airport after encountering trouble and making an unscheduled landing on Thursday Jan. 10, 2008. The Rocky Mountains are visible in the background. At least 14 people aboard were injured when the Airbus A319 hit turbulence during a cross-country flight, an official said.(AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Larry MacDougal)

32. PHX - Phoenix Sky Harbor

The silhouettes of travelers are seen as a United Continental Holdings Inc. plane takes off from Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX) in Phoenix, Arizona, U.S., on Friday, Sept. 6, 2013. Yields on benchmark securities climbed to almost two-year highs as consumers spent more on travel and tourism while manufacturing expanded modestly from early July through late August, according to the Federal Reserves Beige Book. Photographer: Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg via Getty Images

30. SEA - Seattle-Tacoma International

Passengers in the C Terminal at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA) head to their gates on June 2, 2013, in Seattle, Washington. Seattle, located in King County, is the largest city in the Pacific Northwest, and has become a hub for many European and Asian global business destinations. (Photo by George Rose/Getty Images)

29. YOW - Ottawa International

Travellers wait for baggage at Ottawa International Airport in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, on Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2011. Canada's trade deficit widened more than forecast in June, signaling that the economy may have stalled or even contracted in the second quarter. Photographer: Brent Lewin/Bloomberg via Getty Images

28. MSP - Minneapolis-St. Paul International

Northwest Airlines jets wait at Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport 30 May, 2006 in St.Paul, MN. AFP PHOTO/Karen BLEIER (Photo credit should read KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images)

27. SAN - San Diego International

A Southwest Airlines Co. airplane takes off at San Diego International Airport in San Diego, California, U.S. on Thursday, Sept. 19, 2013. Airlines must reconsider buying new or used aircraft as rising interest rates increase ownership costs, which could outweigh fuel savings at lower prices. Photographer: Sam Hodgson/Bloomberg via Getty Images

26. DTW - Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County

Vehicles sit at the curb outside the McNamara Terminal, serving Northwest Airlines among others, at Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport in Detroit, Michigan, U.S., on Saturday, Feb. 23, 2008. Delta Air Lines Inc. and Northwest Airlines Corp. pilots are working to find a compromise over union seniority, a hurdle to the merger that would create the world's biggest carrier, people familiar with the talks said. (Photo by Fabrizio Costantini/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

25. ATL - Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson

Delayed and stranded passengers waiting for flight information fill cubicles throughout Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport after a snow storm on January 10, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia. Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed and Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue declared a state of emergency because of snowfall and ice across Atlanta and Georgia. A winter storm stretched across the Southeast as freezing rain and sleet followed on the heels of a heavy snow that blanketed the region. Airtran & Delta cancelled all flights out of Atlanta due to icy and snowy weather conditions. (Photo by Jessica McGowan/Getty Images)

24. DCA - Ronald Reagan Washington National

Holiday travelers line up on Thanksgiving eve for a security screening before boarding their flights on November 27, 2013, at Ronald Reagan National Airport in Washington, DC. AFP PHOTO/Paul J. Richards (Photo credit should read PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images)

23. BOS - Boston Logan

The lines moved fast at TSA security checkpoints at Logan Airport's Terminal A. (Photo by John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

22. CLT - Charlotte Douglas International

A US Airways plane prepares for take-off at Charlotte-Douglas International Airport on January 16, 2009 in Charlotte, North Carolina. US Airways flight 1549 crashed into the Hudson River in New York City on January 15, 2009 shortly after take-off from LaGuardia Airport on its way to Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

21. DEN - Denver International

Security lines at Denver International Airport are long but moving fast, November 26, 2014. The airport was busy with thanksgiving travelers. (Photo by RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

20. SFO - San Francisco International

Passengers walk to the JetBlue Airways departure gate October 17, 2014 at the San Francisco International Airport in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images)

18. BWI - Baltimore-Washington Thurgood Marshall

Travelers walk in front of arrival and departure screens at the Southwest Airlines ticket counter on Wednesday, November 23, 2005 at the Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Chris Greenberg/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

17. YUL - Montreal Pierre-Elliot Trudeau

People gather to watch the Airbus A380 as it makes its first landing at the Pierre-Elliott Trudeau airport, 12 November, 2007 in Montreal, Quebec. Saudi Arabian billionaire Prince Walid Bin Talal on Monday ordered an Airbus A380, making him the first private buyer of the next generation super jumbo aircraft. AFP PHOTO/David BOILY (Photo credit should read DAVID BOILY/AFP/Getty Images)

15. MCI - Kansas City International

With no planes in sight, a lone passenger waits out the ice storm cancellations at Kansas City International Airport in Kansas City, Missouri, Tuesday, December 11, 2007. (Photo by Tammy Ljungblad/Kansas City Star/MCT via Getty Images)

14. IAH - George Bush Intercontinental

Lines of passengers wait at a security checkpoint 22 September 2005 before flying out of George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston, Texas, as people from south Texas evacuate in advance of Hurricane Rita. AFP PHOTO/Stan HONDA (Photo credit should read STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty Images)

13. FLL - Ft. Lauderdale-Hollywood

Jason Cohen of New York City, catches a few last-minutes of sun before he was to catch a scheduled flight home to LaGuardia Airport in New York, Wednesday, February 2, 2011, at the Ft. Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport. Almost 40 planes were parked at the airport Wednesday because of flight cancellations caused by the snow and ice storm in the Midwest and East Coast. Cohen said he was an 'optomistic,' traveler and thought he would get out today. (Joe Cavaretta/Sun Sentinel/MCT via Getty Images)

8. DFW - Dallas-Ft. Worth International 

This 17 September, 2001, file photo shows an American Airlines jet taking off from Dallas/Ft. Worth International Airport in Dallas, Texas. American Airlines, the world's biggest carrier, announced 19 September, 2001, it was cutting least 20,000 jobs following the terrorist attacks against the US. No alternatives were being offered to fired employees because of the company's cash crunch after the 11 September attacks, in which two American Airlines jets were among the four lost, it added. 'This is, without a doubt, the most difficult thing I have had to do in my two decades at American,' chairman and chief executive Don Carty said in a letter to employees. AFP PHOTO/Paul BUCK (Photo credit should read PAUL BUCK/AFP/Getty Images)

7. YYZ - Toronto Pearson

Travellers scour the baggage claim at Toronto's Pearson airport for their luggage. Cold weather has caused a series of delayed or cancelled flights. January 7, 2014. (Randy Risling/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

1. LGA - New York LaGuardia

Travelers wait on line to check-in at the Central Terminal at LaGuardia Airport in the Queens borough of New York, U.S., on Tuesday, Dec. 28, 2010. Passengers stranded when airlines canceled more than 6,000 flights amid a snow storm in the eastern U.S. may wait days for another flight as carriers move aircraft and search for seats on crowded planes. Photographer: Jin Lee/Bloomberg via Getty Images


3. The bathroom door isn't really locked when you're inside.

Airplane lavatories are small, cramped and the location of choice for a mid-flight rendezvous with a significant other. However, they are not as private as you may think. Most lavatories can be accessed externally even when they have been locked.

On some aircraft, unlocking the door is as simple as lifting up the "lavatory" sign and sliding over the toggle switch located underneath the cover.

Lavatory doors can be locked and unlocked from the outside for a multitude of reason. It allows flight attendants quick access to locked lavatories in case of emergencies. In other instances, it allows the cabin crew to restrict access to bathrooms during takeoff and landing.

So if you are thinking about a mid-flight dalliance, don't. Those locked doors all not all that locked.

4. The tray tables are ridiculously filthy.

As much as airlines make an effort to keep their planes clean, large fleets and short turnaround times simply don't allow them clean every surface. Which leads us to the obvious question: What are the dirtiest places on the plane?

According to a study conducted by microbiologists hired by Travelmath, seatback tray tables are a hotspot for bacteria.

According to the study, microbiologists found an average of 2,155 colony-forming units a square inch on tray tables collected from four different planes. In contrast, the study found an average of "just" 265 CFU/ on the lavatory flush button.

5. Some planes are equipped with a "corpse cupboard."

With billions of people hopping on and off flights every year, it is inevitable that people die while flying. Although crews will do their best to divert to the nearest available airport, sometimes it's not possible.

Once the passenger is determined to have died, the cabin crew will first work to store the body in a respectful manner and, if possible, away from other passengers. If there is room, the body will likely be placed in unoccupied rows of seats or in first class where there is more empty space. However, on crowded flights, there may not be room to relocate the deceased, at which point the corpse would be covered up and strapped into a seat.

Singapore Airlines, which operates a fleet of more than 100 wide-body long-haul airliners, has been known to equip some of its planes with special "corpse cupboards" to store the deceased on long flights.

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