11 Things You Didn't Know About Airplanes

11 Things You Didn't Know About Airplanes

Ever wondered why there's a tiny hole in each window?

By Bryce Gruber

Traveling to all the far-off, exotic places you love typically requires a flight on a plane, and while regular Jet Set readers already might know a lot of the nitty-gritty facts of flying commercial, you may not know all the weird, fascinating elements that go into the planes themselves. Here are 11 new facts to ponder.

1. There's a tiny hole in each window.

If you've ever noticed your window seat coming equipped with a teeny, tiny hole in the double paned window — there's a reason for that. "Those little holes help equalize the pressure in the plane's cabin as you fly. You don't want your ears and nose to explode, do you?" says an executive at a major airline (rhymes with Shmelta), whose contract wouldn't allow us to name him. "Those safeguard your facial holes, and a bunch of important flying equipment."

2. The seats don't align with the windows.

And there's just a simple explanation. Nope, it's not related to the mechanics of aviation, as you might expect — but merely a way for planes to maximize their profits by arranging rows efficiently to pack in passengers.

3. Windows are round for strength.

Windows in our homes and offices are angular, but not so for our planes. Why? Curved edges distribute stress, and help reduce chances of cracking or breaking. It's just a stronger shape for a plane element under significant difference in pressure between inside and out.

4. The plane bulges at the top.

If you've ever noticed the top of an airplane bulges more than the bottom, there's an engineering reason for that too, naturally. That's called called "airfoil" and it's what helps get your plane off the ground and into the sky. That particular shape splits two distinct streams of air and gives the plane its ability to lift off the ground.

5. Most commercial airplanes have better fuel economy than your car.

An airbus A320 seats about 150 people and can get about 77 miles per seat.

6. Transparent planes could be the wave of the future.

Airbus announced just a couple years ago that it had plans to develop a see-through plane — and that means a fuller viewing experience for passengers and onlookers. Pretty futuristic, right?

7. There's no one, uniform takeoff speed.

Since taking off is dependent on overcoming gravity and drag, the plane's weight must be calculated in order to figure out the right takeoff speed to achieve a real liftoff, and then ultimately, a flight. "If anyone tells you a 747 and a crop duster require the same takeoff speed, they're crazy, and you shouldn't ever be their passenger," the airline exec said.

8. Fuel weighs a lot.

Boeing 747 aircraft can carry roughly 60,000 gallons of fuel, which weighs about 400,000 pounds.

9. Planes have miles of wires.

Did you know the average Boeing 787 has between 60 to 70 miles of electrical wires? All that wire is keeping you safe, warm, connected, and the captains in the cockpit able to direct your plane from start to finish.

10. Those small metal tabs have a big function.

Atop a large plane's wings you'll often see a row of metal tabs that are about one inch in length. They're called "vortex generators" and encourage air to flow the right way during flight.

11. That's some expensive glass.

One windshield or window frame of the Boeing 747-400's cockpit can cost as much as a brand new BMW car. Figure the whole plane costs well over $350 million.

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