Aviation: The hidden wonders of airplanes

A Kenya Airways plane at Heathrow Airport, London [Mate Tongola, Standard]

In this lifetime, you should have at least boarded a plane either locally, internationally, or better yet, seen one in the skies. 

It is human to marvel and admire the sleek aluminum bird defying gravity and soaring through the boundless skies with prowess despite carrying in its belly, hundreds of passengers and tons of cargo and floating effortlessly above the clouds.

From the subtle curve of a winglet to the unseen crew quarters, each plane remains a symphony of precision, science, and a touch of magic.

In our aviation review this week, we break down a few engineering marvels which are extraordinary complexities that many have been pondering about and how they make air travel possible. 

Below are 10 fascinating pointers that keep us aloft and marveling at the ingenuity that propels the planes from the runway to the skies.

Shape of airplane windows

All airplanes have oval-shaped windows. This is not just for aesthetics as many tend to believe. 

The oval or round design helps distribute the stress and pressure in the cabin more evenly, preventing cracks from forming at the corners, which otherwise would be an issue with square windows.

Wing flexibility

Aircraft wings are made out of fiber and are incredibly flexible and resilient. They are designed to bend significantly without breaking. 

This flexibility allows the wings to absorb turbulence and reduces the stress on the plane's structure. 

Role of winglets

The small, vertical extensions at the tips of airplane wings, known as winglets, are not merely decorative. The winglets help reduce aerodynamic drag and improve fuel efficiency by minimizing the turbulence created at the wingtips. 

Engineers say the design leads to significant fuel savings over long flights. This ensures that passengers can see the emergency path lighting and other critical signals more clearly.

Airplane toilets

To some, the presence of a toilet in an airplane remains a mystery, with many wondering where the human waste goes.

The plane toilets use a vacuum system to operate efficiently at high altitudes use significantly less water and reduce the risk of leaks. The waste is always emptied from the holding tank after the bird touches the ground.

Hidden handrails

Most airplane seat backs are equipped with a hidden handrail just below the overhead bin. However, the rails are hidden and always come in handy to the cabin crew allowing them to move safely through the cabin or during turbulence.

Secret bedrooms for cabin crew

On long-haul flights, crew members need rest just like passengers. Many large aircrafts, such as the Boeing 777 Dreamliner are equipped with hidden crew rest compartments. 

The compartments are usually located above the passenger cabin or in the cargo hold and contain bunk beds and other amenities for the crew.

Oxygen mask mystery

The oxygen masks that drop down in case of cabin depressurization provide about 10-15 minutes of oxygen supply to passengers.

The supply time is designed to last until the pilot can descend to a safe altitude where breathable air is available. The time is usually sufficient for an emergency descent.

Airplane mode

Passengers are always advised to switch their phones to flight mode. The real concern is interference with the cellular network on the ground and communication in the cockpit. 

High-speed movement can cause your phone to connect to multiple towers quickly, which can overwhelm the network.

Airplane food

Most people hate airplane food terming it tasteless. However, this is not the case. Scientists have revealed that the low humidity and high altitude dull human taste buds, especially for sweet and salty flavors. 

However, to compensate, airline chefs often add extra seasoning to make meals more palatable at 30,000 feet.

Why airplane lights dim during takeoff and landing

Pilots always dim cabin lights during takeoff and landing. Contrary to the belief among many that this is to save battery power, dimming the lights helps passengers' eyes adjust to the darkness in case an emergency evacuation is required.

Now you know…


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