If you suffer from a fear of flying, you probably shouldn't read this--unless you enjoy having your worst fears validated. Here for your reading pleasure are 10 horrifying facts about flying that you're probably better off not knowing.
These 11 Minutes Are the Scariest
We're not saying you should spend the three minutes after takeoff and last eight minutes before landing frozen in fear, but you should probably be awake and alert. Research has shown that these 11 minutes are when 80 percent of plane crashes occur. Think about that the next time you're tempted to ignore the flight crew's instructions.
Traveling with a Lap Child Can Be Deadly
No one wants to spend extra money on a separate plane ticket for their infant, especially when kids under two can usually fly free. But can you put a price on safety? You wouldn't dream of driving with your child sitting in your lap instead of a car seat (we hope), so why would you do it on a flight? According to the FAA, "The safest place for your child on an airplane is in a government-approved child safety restraint system (CRS) or device, not on your lap. Your arms aren't capable of holding your child securely, especially during unexpected turbulence." Kids can easily fly out of a parent's arms during severe turbulence or a crash--hurting not only the child but other passengers as well. Survivable accidents can become fatal for unrestrained infants. (Read this account of an emergency landing in which a mother survived but her lap baby was killed on impact.) Play it safe and get the extra seat.
Turbulence Might Be Getting Worse
Flight feeling bumpier than usual? It's not your imagination. Scientists say that the amount of moderate to extreme turbulence experienced on transatlantic flights could increase by between 10 and 40 percent by mid-century, due to increasing levels of carbon dioxide. Buckle up!
Your Plane Is Filthy
With planes flying on tighter schedules than ever before, there's often no time for cleaning before a flight is turned around for the next group of passengers. Since cold and influenza viruses can live for days on surfaces, planes can become germ hotbeds. Watch out for seat pockets (where sick passengers may stash dirty tissues), tray tables (a study found that 60 percent of tray tables tested harbored the "superbug" MRSA), and airplane blankets (which are only washed every five to 30 days, according to an investigation by the Wall Street Journal). Pack antibacterial wipes and hope for the best.
Pilots Fall Asleep at the Controls
Here's an eye-opening statistic: Between 43 and 54 percent of pilots surveyed in the U.K., Norway, and Sweden admitted to having fallen asleep while flying a passenger plane. Even worse, a third of them stated that they woke up to find that their copilot had also been sleeping!
Some Pilots Barely Make a Living Wage
Doctors, surgeons, pilots: We want these people, who literally hold our lives in their hands, to be well paid and happy. Unfortunately, many pilots are extremely underpaid, especially by regional airlines. Check out this pay chart for pilots and copilots--you might make more than the person who's flying your plane. Keep in mind that most pilots are only paid for time in the air (from when the plane leaves the gate to when it arrives at the destination), which doesn't include time spent getting to and from the airport, performing pre-flight duties, or waiting for delayed planes.
Airlines Are Skimping on Fuel
Airline cost-cutting measures are getting extreme. Some airlines are reportedly flying with less-than-recommended fuel levels in an effort to save money, according to a scary report by Spanish safety investigators. The report focuses on budget airline Ryanair, which is no stranger to cutting corners. Take this case, in which the airline instructed its pilots to fly slower in order to save fuel.
You Might Have Only 90 Seconds to Escape a Burning Plane
Better make sure that you know where the emergency exits are on your flight. The FAA requires that all aircraft be capable of being evacuated in 90 seconds, as a minute and a half is the amount of time it can take for a fire to spread through the plane. To up your odds, wear cotton or non-synthetic clothes; synthetics are flammable and may melt to your skin.
If You're Not Sitting Within Five Rows of an Exit, You're in Trouble
If a crash happens, let's hope that you're sitting within five rows of an exit. Statistical analyses of plane crashes have shown that passengers who sit farther than five rows from an exit have greatly reduced chances of successfully evacuating a plane during an emergency. Another way to increase your chances of getting off a plane after a crash is to count the rows between your seat and the nearest exit once you've boarded the plane. If visibility is reduced by smoke, you'll still be able to find your way out.
Here's a good reason to keep that seat belt fastened even if the sign isn't on: Turbulence is the number-one cause of nonfatal aviation accidents. Most injuries sustained as a result of these accidents are suffered by passengers who are not safely buckled in. Don't get up when the seat belt sign is illuminated, and when you're sitting down, always keep your seat belt on.
-- By Caroline Morse