Did you hear the latest news about two airplanes that had to make an emergency landing after one of their engines failed, causing debris to fall from the sky? You might wonder how often airline debris is found on the ground? Actually, accidents and incidents are reported more frequently than what you may think. Read our answers to some basic questions about airplanes that might have also crossed your mind before.
In the air, planes have no need for forward or reverse gears. On the ground, they're designed to move forwards only. That's why, once the plane's got the 'all clear', a 'push back' vehicle is needed. These don't have the power themselves to move the plane, they simply lift it, overcoming its inertia so it coasts gently backwards.
You might not have noticed, but cabin windows have tiny holes. They are meant to be there! Aircraft windows have three layers of tough acrylic. The exterior one maintains cabin pressure while the middle pane is a fail-safe option. The interior pane has a tiny hole that regulates air pressure, keeping the middle pane intact in case of an incident.
Who hasn't looked up at the sky and watched the white trails following an airplane? As this trail is caused by condensation, it is technically called a 'contrail'. A plane's engine creates hot humid air. As this is expelled from the engine it condenses as it hits the colder air of the atmosphere. This creates an illusion of smoke or steam - much like when you breathe out on a cold day.
Lightning is impossible to avoid in the Earth's upper atmosphere, but planes are designed to withstand it. In fact, every plane is struck at least once a year. The plane's outer shell is conductive so lightning runs from the nose, along the fuselage and wings and out through the tail. Onboard electrics are well-earthed or isolated and if possible, the captain will always fly around storms rather than through them.
When a bird hits a plane, it's always fatal for the bird, but also dangerous in terms of aircraft safety and for all of those onboard. Engines on larger planes can usually withstand the impact of single birds, but may cause severe structural damage for smaller aircrafts. Also, flocks of birds that live near the airports pose a greater problem. Not only may they may be cause damage to the engine itself, it may also cause other technical failures. Other than the engine, larger aircrafts with sensors along the sides of the aircraft, may be damaged from a bird strike. Many airports now have wildlife management programs, such as keep them at bay by employing birds of prey, covering up open waters, reducing areas which may become nesting grounds, etc.
With cabin interior pressure ranging from 4 to 14 psi, it's impossible to open a door mid-flight. No-one would have the strength to push against the outside pressure holding it firmly in place. They're securely locked as well hence the double door checks performed before take-off.
Planes are heavy and, at landing, hit the ground at around 270 kph. This puts their tyres under huge strain, but aircraft tyres are pumped up to more than six times the average car so that they don't explode on impact. Many are able to withstand pressures of up to 900 psi before bursting so there's plenty of room for manoeuvre.
If you didn't know these before, then we hope we've provided you with some knowledge on airplanes. You can stir up a conversation during your next flight with your family and travel companion(s). So whenever you're ready to take to the skies, then book a flight with BudgetAir New Zealand.