Some of the things we´ve all heard about flying actually fall into the category of “urban legend”. Here are a few of the more common ones:
Do electronic devices actually endanger flights?
Not really. It´s true that before taking off, passengers are asked to activate airplane mode. It´s often understood that this is because it might affect navigation. But that’s not exactly the case. What it can potentially interfere with is the aircraft’s communication system – not producing any flight-endangering interference but rather creating annoying and distracting feedback-type noises on the aircraft’s communications frequency. So yes, therefore it remains important to turn off phones and tablets, but not because they can directly impede navigation, but rather cause a bit of interference in the plane´s communications. due to interference concerns with the communication systems and for optimal navigation, (LINK TO POST RE COMMUNICATIONS?)ç
Is it easier to catch diseases like the flu or COVID on an airplane?
Not at all. In fact, quite the opposite – the air inflight is much more germ-free than in most enclosed spaces. For example, among the protocols which Iberia implemented during the COVID pandemic, one standout was the installation of HEPA filters, which remove almost 100 percent of pathogens. In addition, cabin air is refreshed every three minutes.
Can aircraft doors be opened whilst in flight?
No, it’s absolutely impossible, because they´re pressure-sealed – meaning there´s no human (or likely even superhuman) force that could manage to do it.
Is flying at all dangerous?
Of all the myths surrounding airplanes, arguably this is the one which can be refuted with the most data. Air travel is by far the safest mode of transportation available. Contrary to what someone with a fear of flying might think, commercial aviation has an extremely low accident rate (one in approximately 2.5 million flights).
Moreover, there´s also no mode of transport in the world today that undergoes more safety checks than commercial airplanes. And on top of that, all the onboard safety systems are duplicated and even triplicated to guard against potential failure. All this makes flying far, far safer than for example driving a car, which many of us do every day without thinking twice.
Do airplanes dump waste mid-air?
No they don´t, and it’s important to dispel this myth. The only thing airplanes are allowed to release in flight is water. And it’s not just because of how unpleasant jettisoning solid or liquid waste would be for those on the ground, but also because it could cause navigation problems.
Can a situation ever occur in which a plane is flown on autopilot?
Definitely not. This notion comes from movies like Airplane! – which we should see for what it is: entertaining and fun, but basically a silly comedy that´s far from reality. So-called “autopilot” is just a support tool for pilots, to provide them with information (and yes, “pilots” plural because there are always two, a pilot and a co-pilot, both extremely capable and rigorously trained to handle an aircraft, with the only difference being that the pilot has more flight hours logged than the co-pilot).
How dangerous is turbulence for a flight?
It would be extraordinary for mid-air turbulence to affect a flight. It’s true that this kind of bumpy motion can be somewhat unpleasant when it lasts for a while, but there’s nothing to be afraid of. Turbulence is a natural and predictable climatic phenomenon, and its potential for danger is extremely remote, because modern aircraft are designed to withstand it even to a severe degree. So if during rougher turbulence you see flight attendants stop attending to passengers, don’t interpret it as a sign of danger; it’s simply part of the procedure in this situation – plus obviously having a cart in the aisle during a bumpy patch could send bottles, pitchers, and other items flying unnecessarily.
And what about lightning strikes?
This is another myth which has been propagated through the movies. Pilot have a clear grasp of their route and will generally successfully avoid storms; but if perchance they’re caught off guard, there’s nothing to fear. The aircraft’s extensive and redundant safety systems make it impossible for a lightning strike to cause significant damage to it – nor of course, to affect passengers.