5 Airplane Mysteries Debunked

Don’t you find it a little bit strange that a few years ago, all mobile devices were required to be switched off but today these can be not only left on but can be in use during take-off and landing?

Well I thought it would be a great idea to write an article on some of the requirements for take-off & landing and the real reason behind the air-hostess requesting that you keep that seat upright, among other things too. So here are 5 aircraft mysteries debunked for you to be an informed traveller.


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Dimming of Cabin Lights:


Take-off and landing of aircraft is the most vulnerable and critical part of an aircrafts flight and every step needs to be taken that in the event of an incident, that the passengers have the best possible chance of survival.

Cabin LightsThe interior lights of the aircraft are adjusted to match the exterior lighting conditions to ensure that if there is an incident where one is required to exit the aircraft, your eyes are already adjusted to the lighting conditions outside of the plane.

If you need to go to the bathroom during the night and you flick the light switch on, wow does that not only hurt but it also takes a while for your eyes to adjust before you begin to regain your bearings. Well this is exactly the kind of delay that the airlines are trying to avoid in the case of an emergency.

Light dimming is most noticeable at dawn, dusk or night as at these times, the difference between interior and exterior lighting is at its highest. In addition to this, by dimming the interior lights, if an incident occurs, the emergency lighting located on the floor and at the exits is also clearer to identify for use in an emergency.


Seats in Upright Position:


As mentioned above, the most critical part of an aircraft’s flight is the take-off and landing, therefore in the event of an incident, passengers need their seats locked in place to reduce the possibility of being injured. When the seat is in a reclined position, by design it is not locked in place and in the case of a sudden stop or impact, the seat will shoot forward trying to eject you out like a catapult. This is not a great scenario should you be trying to avoid bad whiplash.

The second reason is the effective evacuation of passengers which can only be achieved when the seats are all in the upright position. If seats are reclined, the exit paths will not be uniform and this also restricts the space available for passengers to efficiently move out of the seating area to exit the plane.


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Window Blinds Stay Open:


Window BlindsThe real reason behind window blinds being left open is that the passengers actually fulfil a critical role in identifying any potential problems or hazards that can occur outside of the aircraft. Notice how almost all window seated passengers are intently staring out of the window during landing, well these people will be the first to alert the flight crew if something looks amiss out there. Types of hazards could be fuel leaks, damage to the aircraft or any potential problems that the pilot might not be aware of. He does not have super human power or 360 degree vision, so he needs some help.

An important consideration in an emergency situation is that one should always look out the window prior to using the emergency exit to ensure there are no fires or other hazards waiting for you on the other side of the door. This is a design and safety consideration which is why there are no window shades located on the emergency door.


Switching Mobile Devices off:


While mobile devices these days do not need to be switched completely off anymore, cabin crew members do often request that they are switched to Flight Mode. The reason for this is that there is a small potential that mobile devices still transmitting cellular signals may interfere with older aircraft’s on board electronics and cause problems for the pilot.

This is not really the case in modern aircraft as the really sensitive equipment is protected from radio waves emitted from personal electronic devices. The signals appear to be more of a nuance to the flight crew using headphones rather than a real risk to the safety of the aircraft as the signal registers as a beep similar to the one one would hear if a phone was held next to a speaker when sending or receiving messages.

Newer aircraft offer in-flight data services to allow passengers to stay connected during the flight but be aware that these are exorbitantly expensive and should not be used unless absolutely necessary.


Small Hole in Windows:


How about that little hole in the window, shouldn’t windows be sealed to be safe and what is its purpose? If you look out the window of an aircraft, you are actually looking through 3 layers and not just 2 as is appears. The outer and middle panes have the strength to bear the brunt of the pressure that is exerted on the fuselage with most of the pressure being naturally exerted on the outer layer as this is in direct contact with the exterior. Bleed Hole

These holes’ are known as ‘bleed holes’ who’s primary function is to equalize the air pressure between the cabin and the air gap between the panes. If there were no hole, there would be a buildup of pressure between the panes that would cause fatigue and possible fracture in the long term.

Bleed holes are located in the middle pane and should the outer pane fail, the middle pane is designed to still be strong enough to maintain the cabin pressure even with a small hole in it. The aircraft pressure systems are more than capable of handling the losses to the external environment created by such a small hole.


Final Word:


So I hope this article debunked some of the mysteries of air travel and should you have any further questions related to features while travelling, leave these in the comments section and I will do my best to answer them as soon as possible.

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16 Responses

  1. Tim Bennett says:

    Hi Richard,

    I always find these types of articles really fascinating.

    You did a great job researching and obviously took time to put all the facts together.

    Very well written!

    I always new that cell phone had no effect on a plane. i mean they fly through signals all the time!

    Did you also know that if the windows were square, the plane would fall apart? That’s why they have those nice curves.

    I hope you will post more great little tips about what goes on inside a plane!

    Great job.

    Tim My Life Is My Passion

    • Richard says:

      Hi Tim,

      Thanks so much for adding to the article. I had read an article on stress and its relation to shapes of design and according to that article the corners of a square window are the weak points and would tend to be the area where failure would occur. By installing rounded edges, the stress is evenly distributed and there is no single weak point then.

      Thanks again for adding value to my post and leaving a comment.


  2. Chris says:

    What an interesting article, and that’s coming from someone who’s actually scared of flying (I’ve managed to get through a dozen long flights but I’ve been petrified in most of them!). 

    I have noticed the dimming of the lights before – and I always convinced myself that it was down to power saving in the aircraft (in my paranoid mind!). It’s so nice to see logic behind these things, especially for someone like me! 

    Great read. 

    • Richard says:

      Hello Chris,

      Trust me, if the aircraft needed to dim the lights (which are energy savers these days) to make a safe landing, there is something seriously wrong with the plane. I can only imagine how terrifying it must be for someone who is afraid of flying.

      Thanks for your personal input into your comment and thanks for stopping by.


  3. Mary says:

    I don’t fly too frequently, but when I do, I feel stressed and afraid of any irregularity happening (don’t want even say “accident”). Reading about these 5 flight routines helped me to better understand flight security reasons and will make me a bit more calm next time I fly. I will also be better equipped with answers to my kid’s endless question “why is this?” about everything around them. Thank you for the information.

    • Richard says:

      Hello Mary,

      The chances of these irregularities occurring is really low but this does nothing to ease our minds and calm our fears. Not having kids myself, I can only imagine how often the question you about things that you might not have the answer to.

      I am glad I have been able to clear things up and that you have the answers to your kids questions the next time you fly.


  4. Renton says:

    That is quite interesting. Some flights even offer in flight WiFi! I have always wondered about the cabin light and now I finally know. I heard about the emergency lights being more visible but I didn’t know about your eyes adjusting to the sunlight. It makes sense though.

    I like the window seats and haven’t seen anything alarming, apart from the plane wings flapping slightly like a real bird’s wings. This was quite an interesting read about stuff I have an have not though about in a plane before. I guess you saved me the trouble of Googling all these things separately and getting side tracked again so thanks!

    • Richard says:

      Hello Renton,

      The most common misconception is that the lights are dimmed to save power but be assured that these planes produce more than enough power for their needs. 

      I think most of us have never or will never experience anything other than the mundane while staring out the window and for me that is perfectly fine.

      I am glad to have saved you some time and thanks for stopping by. 


  5. Micah says:

    Thanks Richard for your informative article. I have always wondered why they dimmed the lights on takeoffs and landings, now I know.

    I always prefer a window seat so that I can look see my surroundings, so far I haven’t had to let the pilot know of any incumbent circumstances.

    Thanks again for your article. It is always good to know what is going on behind the scenes. Hopefully I will have less anxiety.

    • Richard says:

      Hello Micah,

      I think the dimming of the lights has been to top commented on point from this article. I am glad that you have never had to report anything and lets hope you never have to.

      Thanks for dropping a comment on my post and safe travels.


  6. TYP says:

    Hi Richard,

    Wow… this article really explained well all those reason we need to comply with the crew members. For safety reason, I will listen and follow. Now I have a better understanding of what goes behind these requests.

    Since most of the cabins are small and compact, with many passengers sitting side by side; I would prefer airlines to impose switching all the mobile phones to flight-mode. Otherwise, people sitting next to you may start calling their family/friend/colleague/others and their voices/conversation is likely to disturb you often.

    It will be very annoying when your surrounding start creating noise, and more noises will make your traveling become unbearable in air travel.

    Therefore, I strongly discourage usage of mobile phone once you are on board the plane. Not just during taking off and landing but at all times.

    • Richard says:

      Hello Typ,

      I completely agree with you. I take the Deutsche Bahn often between cities and there is no greater annoyance than someone having a loud conversation on their phone in a confined space. This would be even worse in an aircraft as the sound tends to echo more in a plane than a train. 

      Thanks for adding some personal experience to you comment.


  7. Laura says:

    I never noticed the small hole in the window! Very interesting article. Some pretty clever thinking about the dimmed lights and the seats.

    I still switch off my phone, although it’s not really needed anymore. It’s more of an old habbit that sticks and better safe than sorry, I guess. 🙂

    • Richard says:

      Hello Laura,

      Well lets say that it can’t hurt to turn your phone off but as you said, its not necessary and the only benefit will be that your battery lasts longer. 

      Thanks for the comment and I am glad you enjoyed the article. 


  8. Thanks for the heads up on these mysteries! 🙂 I think this is extremely helpful if you’re an anxious flyer as knowing the facts can really help calm down the brain and stop you from disappearing down the rabbit hole. Funny thing is it all makes sense now I see it in black and white. 🙂

    • admin says:

      Hi Leanne,

      Sometimes the fear of the unknown is worse than being armed with facts. While this article might not put all your fears to rest, it will assist in reaffirming that there is substantial thought and engineering behind every piece of equipment or procedure on the aircraft. So be assured you are in good hands.

      Thanks for your personal experience.

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