5 unsettling plane facts your pilot isn't telling you
There are plenty of weird things that people are afraid of in this world -- whether you shudder at the sight of pigeons or you shut down when you're near chewing gum, there probably aren't too many people in your corner. But if you're afraid of flying, on the other hand, you're definitely not alone. In fact, one in three Americans is anxious about flying on planes.
And while that's not necessarily rational, considering you're more likely to die from a bee sting or a strike of lightning than in a commercial plane accident, there are plenty of airplane facts that contribute to this widespread cultural anxiety. In fact, we've compiled some unsettling facts about flying that you might not want to know if you're among the third of US citizens who are uncomfortable on a plane to begin with. Here are some facts that your pilot probably isn't relaying to you.
1. Lots of planes get struck by lightning:
Don't panic, though -- planes are built to take it. The scariest thing that you'll experience if lightning strikes while you're on board is probably just a bright flash and a loud boom. Experts estimate that each U.S. commercial fleet is struck by lightning at least once annually.
2. Afternoon flights are the worst for turbulence:
Because of the increased likelihood of a thunderstorm occurring as well as the bumpy afternoon air, the later the day gets, the more likely you are to hit turbulence. As the night cools off, the air in the late night and early morning becomes more level -- perfect timing for a nice snooze! Additionally, wind speeds are generally lower at these times, making for a smooth redeye.
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3. There's something they fear much more than turbulence:
Turbulence is a common occurrence on flights -- pilots can plan for it, see when it's coming and simply get used to the idea that its presence almost never implies danger. That being said, an updraft is a completely different story. Not only can a flight team not necessarily detect an updraft on a nighttime radar, but hitting these violent winds at a plane's high speed can make for the plane being thrown up and down in the air quite roughly. This can damage the body of the plane and subsequently spin it out of control: "We avoid turbulence not because we're afraid the wing is going to fall off," says one pilot, "but because it's annoying."
4. Planes often carry just enough fuel to get through their scheduled trip:
Since carrying extra fuel may lead to an unnecessary waste of that resource, lots of major airlines play it safe and schedule their flights to fly without full tanks of gas. This is, of course, far from a death sentence, considering that planes can often land at an alternate airport if need be. That being said, it's not exactly comforting.
5. There's no such thing as a water landing:
You read that correctly -- the phrase 'water landing' is nothing more than a euphemism for crashing into the ocean. It can oftentimes be a controlled descent as opposed to a deadly crash, but there are generally no cases where a US plane has landed in or on the water if not for an emergency situation.
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