Air Travel Myths

Air travel safety

It turns out there are many misconceptions about the safety of airline travel, some of which airlines and air travel safety agencies are all too willing to propagate. An interesting article in the Economist (subscription required, but there is a free trial that you can sign up for) informs us that:

  1. rear-facing seats are more safe than front-facing ones on airplanes; the reason they're not used on commercial aircraft is that people don't like them
  2. really pay attention to where the emergency exits are--knowing where they are markedly increases your chance of survival in the event of a crash
  3. you should keep your seatbelt fastened at all times, since there's always a risk of deadly clear-air turbulence, which pilots can not anticipate
  4. no wide-bodied aircraft has ever made a successful landing on water, which makes the discussion of sliding down inflatable chutes that turn into rafts more or less irrelevant
  5. mobile phones do not interfere with navigation systems
  6. flight attendants happily ply passengers with moderate amounts of alcohol to keep them quiet
  7. the flight staff can even modify air quality to make passengers drowsy
  8. ever hear the pilot tell the flight attendants "doors to automatic and cross-check"? he's telling them to check and double-check that the doors have been closed.

Reading this made me feel a little like a kid told that there is no Tooth Fairy...

Article excerpts

Note: These are "quotes" from an imaginary airline pilot, not actual quotes from an existing flight.

  • [if safety were our first priority] our seats would be rear-facing, like those in military aircraft, since they are safer in the event of an emergency landing. But then hardly anybody would buy our tickets and we would go bust.
  • knowing in advance where the exits are makes a dramatic difference to your chances of survival if we have to evacuate the aircraft.
  • keep your seat belt fastened when seated, even if the seat-belt light is not illuminated. This is to protect you from the risk of clear-air turbulence, a rare but extremely nasty form of disturbance that can cause severe injury.
  • in the history of aviation the number of wide-bodied aircraft that have made successful landings on water is zero.
  • the real reason to switch [mobile phones] off is because they interfere with mobile networks on the ground
  • the purpose of these refreshments is partly to keep you in your seats where you cannot do yourselves or anyone else any harm. Please consume alcohol in moderate quantities so that you become mildly sedated but not rowdy.
  • We can always turn the cabin air-quality down a notch or two to help ensure that you are sufficiently drowsy.
  • Cabin crew, please make sure we have remembered to close the doors. Sorry, I mean: ‘Doors to automatic and cross-check'.

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8 comments

onlinetrainer 10 years ago

I love the quotes from an imaginary pilot! On my next flight I will arrive early to Southwest to get a seat facing the other direction...and hope in the event of a plunging flight that they turn the air-quality down many notches so I pass out even before hitting the ground...but then again flying is the safest form of travel. In the event of an air pocket -- maybe they'll give us gravity boots, so we can get up from our seats to use the bathroom -- then we'll still be safe and hopefully not crack our necks on the curved ceiling!


onlinetrainer profile image

onlinetrainer 10 years ago from Oakland

I love the quotes from an imaginary pilot! On my next flight I will arrive early to Southwest to get a seat facing the other direction...and hope in the event of a plunging flight that they turn the air-quality down many notches so I pass out even before hitting the ground...but then again flying is the safest form of travel. In the event of an air pocket -- maybe they'll give us gravity boots, so we can get up from our seats to use the bathroom -- then we'll still be safe and hopefully not crack our necks on the curved ceiling!


Danny 10 years ago

this info is not accurate. the pilot does not work in the cabin as we flight attendants do.


S. Van wal 6 years ago

I had a nice laugh reading this.

It's all nonsense.


Tinto 5 years ago

"in the history of aviation the number of wide-bodied aircraft that have made successful landings on water is zero."

This is incorrect. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Water_landing


Journey 5 years ago

Yeah, always be given instructions before take off


Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 4 years ago from Houston, Texas

Interesting myths regarding air travel. It is certainly not as much fun as it used to be in the days prior to people using airplanes as vehicles for mass destruction. Also the crowded flights and skimpy leg room and reduced service...oh well. Times change and not always for the better.


Yang737 4 years ago

A correction to your point no. 6 and point no. 8. Point 8: The doors checked not for closure, but to ensure that the escape slide mechanisms are appropriately armed. Each crewmember then checks that the crewmember on the door opposite to theirs has indeed armed their door's escape slide mechanisms. Point 6: Overly drunk passengers are not what flight attendants want and are not conducive to a safe cabin.

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