Commercial air travel has always been surrounded by myths, conspiracy theories, and urban legends. Here are 7 of the most ingrained fallacies about air travel.
1. Traveling by plane is expensive
The average price of a plane ticket has fallen by around 50% compared to the last three decades. Despite the extra fees that passengers hate so much, young Americans or Europeans don't seem to realize that years ago very few could afford to fly. Mass air transport, thanks to which university students can return home for a weekend or even to Mexico for spring break, or move on vacation to all European countries, is something very new, thanks to the companies of cheap flights or low cost they have broken the markets.
2. Traveling by plane is more dangerous than before
The latest events with the flights of Malaysia Airlines They have led many people to believe that traveling by plane is no longer so safe. It is actually much safer than it was 25 years ago, as air traffic has doubled and yet the fatal accident rate has been declining. According to the International Civil Aviation Organization the probability of having a plane crash is 1/6 compared to 1980.
2013, in fact, has been regarded as the safest year in the history of modern commercial aviation. So if you think the last few months have been bad, go back to 1985. In that year there were 27 serious accidents in which almost 2,500 people died. The 60s, 70s and 80s were years plagued with accidents, bombings, attacks on airports… Despite the latest events, large-scale accidents are much less frequent.
3. Modern commercial airliners are so sophisticated that they practically fly alone
This is completely untrue. Compare medicine to flying. Technology helps the pilot to fly the plane in the same way that it helps a surgeon to carry out an operation. An airplane cannot “fly alone”, in the same way that an operating room cannot remove a tumor or perform an organ transplant without the help of the surgeon. Perhaps in the future robots will help pilot airplanes, but it is not yet a reality.
The automation of the cabin does not mean that the plane flies automatically, but that the pilots pilot the aircraft thanks to this automation. You still need to tell the machine what to do, when to do it, and how to do it.
It is true that there are times when there is more work than others, but even with the autopilot on, the cockpit does not stop working. Even the most routine flights are subject to numerous contingencies and extensive crew collaboration. It is
Furthermore, 99% of landings and 100% of take-offs are carried out at
“Old way”, that is to say, manually at the controls, or by the captain or the
4. The air in airplanes is full of germs.
Studies show that the air in a crowded plane contains fewer germs than in other spaces. Passengers and crew breathe a mixture of fresh air and recirculated air that helps regulate temperature and maintain a bit of humidity.
The air is recirculated using hospital grade filters that capture at least 95% of the microbes present in the environment. The air inside the cabin is completely renewed every 2 or 3 minutes, much more frequently than in buildings. Therefore, you are more likely to fall ill from touching bathroom door handles, seat trays or armrests than from breathing cabin air. You can see, for example, the minimal risk of contracting Ebola on an airplane.
We must know that the air in the plane is extremely dry (approximately 12% humidity) and dehydrating. This is due to the height at which it is flown, where the humidity is very low or practically non-existent. A possible solution would be to humidify the aircraft but this is not done for various reasons, such as increased weight of the aircraft or possible damage to the fuselage.
5. Pilots reduce airflow and play with oxygen levels to keep passengers docile
The air controls usually have three positions: high, normal and low. Cabin airflow rate and volume are constant as they are typically in automatic (normal) mode. The first position (high) is used when a rapid change in the temperature of the ship is needed and the last (low) when the number of passengers is below a certain threshold. Although it does save fuel, it is not usually modified unless there is a fault, such as overheating.
Regarding oxygen levels, these are determined by pressurization, which is what allows us to breathe normally when we fly at high altitudes. The crew starts the pressurization system before takeoff and the rest takes place automatically. Pilots don't touch oxygen levels unless something goes wrong. A lack of oxygen, which is known as Hypoxia, would produce quite undesirable effects, not only lightheadedness and relaxation, but also confusion, nausea, and migraine-like headaches. In addition, the pilots breathe the same air as the rest of the passengers since the pressure is the same throughout the cabin of the plane. During the flight, the cabin is maintained at a pressure equivalent to between 1,500 and 2,500 meters, depending on the type of aircraft and the cruising altitude. Pressurizing the aircraft cabin at sea level would be unnecessary and would put a greater strain on the fuselage.
6. Co-drivers are not pilots, they are trainees
In the cockpit of an aircraft there are always at least two pilots, the captain and the first officer, known colloquially as the co-pilot, and both are fully qualified to pilot the aircraft.
Co-pilots are not trainees. They share more or less the same tasks with the captain, although the captain is officially in command and has much more responsibility. The co-pilots perform as many takeoffs and landings as the captains, and both participate in decision-making. Any of them can be in command at the time of an incident. In fact, although the action protocol varies depending on the airline, it is normal that during emergencies or other anomalous situations the captain delegates to the co-pilot to be able to concentrate on other aspects such as communication, problem solving, checking the checklist , etc. Therefore, instead of saying “the pilot” we should say “the pilots” or “the cockpit crew”.
A co-pilot is promoted to captain not by experience or skill but by seniority. Also, not all co-pilots want to be promoted to captain since a pilot can have a much better quality of life (salary, schedules and destinations) as a senior co-pilot than as a junior captain. For this reason, it is not so rare to find co-drivers who are older and have more experience than the captain himself.
7. Passenger Embellishment Factor (PEF) or passenger magnification factor (feelings before turbulence, landing, take-off ...)
It is a term that is used to describe the tendency of people to magnify the sensations of flight. The altitude, speed and angles that are perceived are not close to reality.
For example, when there is turbulence, many people believe that the plane descends hundreds of meters when in reality it does not exceed 6 meters. The same is true for takeoff and landing angles. Although the sensation is greater, a steep takeoff usually has an angle of 20 degrees and even a descent no more than 5.