When you join the so-called "mile-high club" — that's getting it on while in a moving plane, for those who somehow didn't know — you earn a certain amount of bragging rights. In addition to pulling out your best sneaky skills, cramming into a very tight lavatory or masterminding some careful maneuvering with a blanket or coat, you’re also bold enough to risk getting caught. Go you! (And whoever makes up the other half of your 35,000-feet tango.) If you’ve ever wondered just how often people actually successfully pull off the MHC honor, or how the whole challenge got started — or wherever else your mind wanders — here’s the smirk-inducing skinny on one of the world’s bravest behaviors:
1. It’s been around since 1785.
The first historical reference to sex in the air was in the betting book for Brooks’s, which was a gentlemen’s club in London. In 1785, two years after the first hot air balloon ride (see where we’re going here?), one man challenged another in the book, "Ld. Cholmondeley has given two guineas to Ld. Derby, to receive 500 Gs whenever his lordship f***s a woman in a balloon one thousand yards from the Earth.” While no sources can indicate if this Derby character was able to seduce a woman up in the air, by 1916, the MHC was officially a thing. And why? Because of a little thing called autopilot. It's rumored that in 1914, American aviator Lawrence Burst Sperry managed to leave his seat and climb on the wing of his plane as it flew over the Seine in Paris. With this new trick came all sorts of mile-high club options.
2. It’s caused (at least one) plane crash.
Even though Sperry is said to have had a lot of fun with his sky-high rendezvous, they weren’t always without consequences. In one of his flights, he accidentally shut off his autopilot invention and crashed into the coast of Long Island at Great South Bay. While both Sperry and his lady friend were A-okay, they were rescued by duck hunters… completely naked. Apparently, the scandal caused a pretty iconic headline from a New York tabloid, describing the incident: "Aerial Petting Ends in Wetting." Zing!
3. A lot of people want to join.
Determining just how many people are part of this scandalous club is a tall order: People fib, of course. And beyond that, deciding what counts as "membership," and what doesn’t is not a science (more on that later). More than a decade ago, Durex Condoms conducted a survey of 300,000 adults in the United States and only two percent confessed to having sex in the air. However, in 2010, Sensis Condoms did another study and found that rate went up to three percent. A more recent study shows the figure is much, much higher — about one in five folks say they've gotten freaky with a stranger on a plane!
4. Changing tables aren't always used for diapers.
In an effort to make their airlines more family friendly, Virgin Atlantic added changing tables in its onboard restrooms in 2002. While we’re sure some parents taking a long flight with an infant greatly appreciated a bit of space in a bumpy, crowded cabin, the trend didn’t proliferate as much as you might think. Why? Well, you can probably guess its alternate use. It's rumored that many quickly became destroyed from a different type of dirty task.
5. One flight attendant set up a mile-high prostitution ring.
Most professions don’t require you to monitor sex behavior on a powerful, moving object, for flight attendants, it’s part of the job description. But one Middle Eastern flight airline attendant took her duties way further than that — and apparently, made almost a million dollars before getting caught. She would charge wealthy — and willing — travelers to have sex with her or other flight attendants during the flight, usually on longer distance travel between the Gulf and the United States. It wasn’t just the flight attendants either, pilots got in on it, too. According to a source close to the scandal: “There is a system where the pilots use hand signals to tell the hostesses they are interested, and how much they will pay.”
6. Laws vary.
Some turned-on passengers don't act on their desires for the fear of getting caught — and possibly punished. If you’re curious if it’s technically illegal to have sex in a moving aircraft and if you can be charged with a crime, we have good and bad news: laws vary. A criminal lawyer told Bustle that while not technically against the law, federal authorities could take action against you, including adding you and your partner to the no-fly list. And if you happen to sneak in that sky-high quickie while in the U.K., the Brits (unsurprisingly) have a stronger policy and you run the risk of a six-month prison sentence.
7. Sometimes flight attendants let it slide.
Even though, yes, you could be in some hot water once you land if you get caught pants down on your flight, a Reddit thread with flight attendants found that about 65 percent of them let it slide. Their biggest request was just to keep it discreet and don’t be too obvious about your intention to join the club. And hey — if you can’t control yourself and are a bit louder than you anticipate? You might get lucky like one couple did on a Norwegian flight from Paris to Stockholm. They were spotted having sex in the bathroom, and in response, the flight attendant said over the intercom as the plane landed, "We’d like to send our best wishes of happy reproduction to the couple that ventured into the toilet earlier on."Awkward (but amusing).
8. You have to qualify.
So what actually counts as joining the mile-high club, and what’s breaking the rules? While you don’t receive a secret handshake, pair of handcuffs, or lubricant for becoming a member, there are some official guidelines you can refer to if you are a stickler for rules. MileHighClub.com defines membership as “having sexual intercourse at an altitutde of at least 5,280 feet.” (That’s exactly one mile, naturally.) However, others who have managed to have sex while airborne — for instance, in hot air balloons or helicopters — might beg to differ.
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