Awesome aviation facts

2013-10-10 09:39


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The mere fact that a machine weighing a couple of tons can be airborne for extended periods of time is awesome. But there's a whole lot more..

- Man set a record for eating an entire plane
Yes, we kid you not, some individual actually ate an entire plane. Michel Lotito first started off with things like light bulbs, razor blades, glass bottles and broccoli before he attempted this weird record. His peculiar penchant for chewing on all things hard and crusty eventually whittled his teeth down to tiny stumps but that did not stop him.  In the 1990’s, he spent two years eating his way through a Cessna 150. Admittedly he first had to break it up using various methods such as a sledgehammer, acetylene torch, and bottle cutter but he reportedly bit off pieces of glass parts directly from the plane in a move to keep it real. Lotito eventually died at the age of 57, due to natural causes though.

- Word dexterity
Did you know Stewardess is the longest word in the English language typed with just the left hand on a desktop keyboard? You just tried it didn't you!?

- Lost baggage
BA lost the luggage of an average of nine passengers on every jumbo jet flight in the first half of 2008, according to a study done by the Association of European Airlines.

 - Higher sense of taste
German airline Lufthansa commissioned a study to find out why people prefer to drink tomato juice up in the air, when usually they wouldn't. Yes, ground-breaking stuff. The study does however offer insight into our perception of flavours at high altitudes. Air pressure conditions in planes reduce our ability to taste properly. Salt and sugar all taste weaker when in the air while our smell and taste detection thresholds are higher under lower pressure on the ground. The findings helped Lufthansa improve their inflight meal offerings.

- More food for thought
Air plane food is not the most interesting part of air travel that’s for sure but it is an essential part of the flight for some. Even more so for pilots apparently.
While people have in fact found the odd maggot in their meal, airports do remain extremely strict on food regulations and safety. Although the pre-made meals are regarded safe, food related illness remains a universal risk.  For this reason, most airlines have their pilots eat different meals. It minimizes the threat of illness, ensuring the safety of at least one pilot! But we can't guarantee what happens when the pilots fall asleep.

- What's in a name?

Do you know what KLM stands for? Koninklijke Luchtvaart Maatschappij NV (Royal Aviation Company) to be exact. It also happens to be the worlds’ oldest airline, established in 1919,  with its maiden voyage taking flight in 1920 between Amsterdam and London. As for the second oldest? It's Qantas (Originally an acronym for Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Services), which was formed in 1920 and has the best safety record with no fatal crashes in their history.

(Kris Klop,

- Most expensive ticket
The world’s most expensive plane ticket cost Sydney millionaire Julian Hayward, an amazing $123 000 (about R1.23 million at R10/$), after being the first person to buy a seat on the A380 maiden flight between Singapore and Sydney in 2007.

- First  flight attendants
United hired the first female flight attendant in 1930. Ellen Church, a 25-year-old registered nurse made history and in turn started a trend of female nurses working on airplanes -  completely replacing men by 1936. Requirements for the job back then included weighing no more than 115 pounds (52kg), being a nurse and un-married. Interestingly enough, Heinrich Kubis was Germany’s and the world’s first flight attendant, in 1912. These days the job requirements may have eased slightly for both males and females, but tattoos are apparently a no-no.

- Fuel efficiency

There are approximately 200 000 flights every day around the world. 70% of aircraft in service today are over 70% more fuel-efficient per seat kilometre, than the first jets in the 1960s. Here's to greener skies.

- Lifting you up
The Wing-span of the A380 is longer than the aircraft itself. Wingspan: 80m, Length: 72.7m. While a Boeing 747s wing-span is longer than the Wright Brothers first flight (120ft).

- Mile-high virginity escapade
Catarina Migliorini of Brazil auctioned off her virginity for $780 000 (About R7.8 -million at R10/$) to a Japanese man only known as Natsu. To avoid any legal problems, the one-hour session with the girl took place on an airplane flying over international waters.  Migliorini is believed to have donated a portion of her payment to charities building homes for the poor in her native state in Brazil. So romantic and packed with philanthropic intentions.

- Save our souls
Did you know the ‘MAYDAY’ is derived from the French word m’aidez, which means help me? We won’t say what word is used when you annoy the flight crew by repeatedly using the attendant button.

- To and fro
In 2012, 1 715 airlines operated a fleet of 23 000 aircraft, serving 3 750 airports, through a route network of several million km’s, managed by 160 air navigation service providers. As for the world's longest flight, that title is held by Turkish Airlines.

(Kris Klop,

- Extreme avoidance of baggage charges

New airline fees are always cropping up. One man preparing to board a flight to Nairobi, Kenya from China's Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport went to unusual lengths to avoid paying an airline's extra baggage charge. When told of his overweight luggage dilemma, the unidentified man reportedly removed 70 items of clothing (including 60 shirts and nine pairs of jeans) from his case and proceeded to put it. But his woes did not end there. He avoided paying extra only to be pulled up at the metal detector where he was forced to undergo a full body search.

- Is age nothing but a number?
The average age of commercial aircraft is reportedly 19 years, which seems a bit old to us? 

- Finer things in flight
British Airways was once the world’s largest purchaser of Champagne, with passengers drinking a minimum of 90 000 cases every year.  But Lufthansa is the world’s largest purchaser of Caviar, buying over 10 tons per year.

- Load up on the water
An air traveller can lose approximately 1.5 litres of water from the body during a 3 hour flight.

- For the love of the upgrade
Only around 25% of first class passengers pay full fare. The rest are upgrades, frequent fliers and airline employees. It is also estimated that a mere 5% of the world’s population has never been on a plane.

- Trendsetter
The internet and on-line check-in was first used by Alaska Airlines in 1999.

(Kris Klop,

 -  A mile-high operation

What do you do if you crash your motorcycle on the way to the airport? If you’re Paula Dixon, you board the plane.  This is exactly what happened back in 1995.  Once on the airplane she started complaining of chest pains. Angus Wallace, Britain’s most respected orthopaedic surgeon at the time, assessed Dixon and determined that she was most likely suffering from tension pneumothorax, meaning her rib had punctured the membrane around her lung, breaking the airtight seal in her chest cavity. Wallace decided to operate on Dixon 35 000 feet in the air. He used part of a coat hanger sterilized with brandy to insert a tube into her chest cavity.  Dixon quickly recovered as the procedure allowed air to escape and decompress her chest. As for the brandy? Wallace said he drank it after the operation.

- Ban that reclining seat
75% of all inflight arguments between grown adults are a result of economy passengers reclining their seats.  A recent survey shows most passengers could not be bother if the person behind them happens to be pregnant, old or frail. In fact nine out of 10 passenger want the reclining seat banned.

- Hijacking alert?
Can you believe that hijacking of aircraft was not officially outlawed until 1961?

- To the moon and back
The Boeing 747 (all versions) has travelled an estimated 35 billion statute miles that is the equivalent of 75 000 trips to the moon and back - 75 000 also happens to be the number of engineer drawings it took to build the first Boeing 747-100.

Do you have any interesting or fun facts about airplanes? Tell us in the comments section below or email us on


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