Fly safe: five tips to remember

An airborne plane is one of the safest places on the planet. However, there are rules to abide by in order to make sure the flight is a comfortable and

An airborne plane is one of the safest places on the planet. However, there are rules to abide by in order to make sure the flight is a comfortable and pleasant experience.


Tip #0. Don’t panic!

If you happen to be aerophobic, it’s anyway no use panicking when you are already seated. Save your nerves by acknowledging that nothing depends on you in this case. We understand that this fact would scare the living hell out of such people to an even higher degree, but… just think of it. You were not afraid during your taxi ride to the airport, being unable to control the drivers of trucks which would often appear out of nowhere on your oncoming lane.

Instead of worrying about things out of your control, try to focus on something you are quite able to do for your safety

Spoiler alert: taxi drivers are, in general, several times less qualified when compared to pilots, and the same comparison frame applies to the control exercised over technical condition and maintenance of taxis and airline fleet. That said, don’t try to listen to the sound of engines or look for a glimpse of uncertainty and fear in the
flight attendants’ faces. As we previously noted, no one would let an inoperable aircraft leave the
airport, and, should any problem arise, pilots would find out way faster than you would. All these flashing
lights and displays in the cockpit serve just this very purpose. Instead of worrying about things out of your control, try to focus on something you are quite able to do. The truth is that you can and should do some action to make your flight a safer experience.

Tip #1. Fasten your seatbelt tightly

Sounds trivial, but flying with belt securely fastened is the cornerstone of your on-board safety. Buckled seatbelt which is not fastened and just lies loosely on your lap is equal to wearing no belt at all. Why is that

so? The answer seems obvious when we talk about landing: the pilot might hit the brakes harshly, but what about takeoff? The thing is that when taking off, a plane runs at a speed comparable to that of a supercar: at about 200 miles per hour. But the takeoff could be aborted unexpectedly due to various reasons: a car appeared on the runway out of nowhere or another plane taxied just ahead of you, and the plane has to stop to a halt whereas taking off. The brakes function automatically: the pilot sets automated control system to the so-called RTO (Rejected Takeoff) position which is specifically designed to maximally cut the brake way.

When the takeoff is aborted, the plane fully stops in just several seconds, running at the acceleration of about 1,5 times higher than at free fall. If you have not fastened your seatbelt, you will freely fly forward leveraging the moving force of momentum and, in the best case scenario will hit the seat ahead of you, with your own head. The distance between seats is about 20 inches, and when your belt is well fastened, you’ll be unlikely to hit the next seat, but once your belt is at least 5 inches loose, you are in for a very harsh experience. Just to quantify the sensation of this unfortunate event, try experiencing free fall headfirst from a table or a chest of drawers. Well, of course, I did not mean ‘try’ in the sense of the word — just imagine it happened to you and learn your first lesson: fasten your seatbelt. By the way, this is also the reason why flight attendants ask you to stove the tray tables when taking off: hitting the thing with your stomach, running at a 1.5g acceleration, is no fun at all.

Tip #2. Fasten your seatbelts through the entire duration of the flight

Even when the ‘Fasten seatbelt’ sign is switched off, you’d better off wearing your seatbelt. Why, you’d say, there is no likelihood of a plane stopping abruptly when airborne. Well, of course, there isn’t. There could be turbulence, wind shear and other air bumps, though. So, a plane can abruptly go several tens of feet down.
Unfastened passengers, due to the momentum, can jump up, hitting their heads badly. It might sound un-believable, but simple physics works here.
The most dangerous place to find oneself when flying through the zone of turbulence is lavatory. Firstly, it is very confined, and secondly, there are prominent object, and hitting some of them might be fatal (unfor-tunately, the history of flying knew such cases).

It means that, as soon as the ‘Return to seat’ indicator flashes, you should as soon as possible finish your bathing business and quickly return to your seat. Of course, turbulence like that is a rare case, but experi-encing it once when in the lavatory can be more than enough.

Tip #3. Turn off all electronic devices

Of course, flight attendants are there to check whether you have switched off electronic appliances, and urge you to do so if you disobey, but then they will just go to their jump seats and fasten their own seat-belts to get ready for takeoff/landing. So, do electronic devices pose any danger? Initially, their use on-board was prohibited to exclude possibility of interference with on-board electronic systems. Now, of course, all electronic systems engaged in conducting the flight are well screened. The aircraft won’t fall down due to some tablet working on the background. In the worst case scenario, if the interference from a gadget influences Instrument Landing System (referred to as ILS) — by the way, this is feasible as receivers work with levels of voltage as low as several millivolts and are a piece of extremely high-precision technology — the pilot would go around and undertake the second attempt to landing.

But in reality, the main reason is not interference rather than weight. A tablet, a laptop, and a smartphone are relatively heavy and hard objects. In the event of emergency braking (see #1), they might slip off one’s hand and inflict damage onto other passengers. To model a similar scenario as in #1, imagine someone dropped an iPad onto your head from the height of 20-30 inches. Why aren’t books and magazines prohibited at take-off? Well, they are relatively soft. Some aviators also point out that during takeoff and landing, a passenger must not be distracted by Angry Birds but look out of the window in order to spot irregularities and immediately report them to the crew. This might also be a reason why the flight attendants require passengers to lift the window shields. But I would say, this reason is rather imaginative: reading is not prohibited during takeoff, and not all pas-sengers are seated by the window. The window shield must be lifted to provide for faster eyesight adapta-tion to lighting conditions outside, and this also is the reason why the lights are dimmed during landing and takeoff. In the event of emergency passengers must leave the aircraft really fast, and those several seconds it takes to adapt the eyesight are critical. Now when we discussed that, it goes without saying that headphones are also to be taken away to make sure a passenger pays full attention to any instructions that might come from the crew in the event of emergency.

Tip #4. Place your carry-on luggage under the seat in front of you

Many people are not aware their carry-on luggage is better off positioned under the seat in front of them rather than packed tightly in the overhead compartment. The more tightly packed it is, the higher the chance of it opening accidentally due to serious turbulence and letting some heavy stuff fall onto aisle pas-sengers’ heads.

Overhead compartments are designed for outer garments, hats, plaids, pillows and small lady purses. If your luggage won’t fit into the overhead compartment just above your seat, try other compartments. But the best place of all is under the seat where your stuff would be easily accessed without hassle.

Tip #5. Say no to alcohol on board

It wouldn’t hurt to relax a bit, but there is a solid reason for not drinking at all. Consumption of alcohol de-hydrated the body, and your organism already manages a great deal of stress in low-humidity environment. Moreover, lower air pressure enhances the intoxication. That means even a modest portion of alcohol would provoke an effect comparable to a regular college fra-ternity party. Firstly, you are in for an overdose (some would simply fall asleep immediately, but some would crave for action, going as far as attempting to hijack a plane). Secondly, expect a hellish hangover with headaches and body pains. So, if you anyway decided to drink alcohol, try to consume more non-alcoholic liquid at the same time (ex-cept for anything with bubbles, otherwise the inebriation effect will intensify).

There is one thing you should understand about aviation: it is a strictly regulated and well-organized indus-try pursuing a single goal: revenue. Accidents, traumas on board and other incidents aren’t something which drives the revenues up.

This, and not abstract concepts like love for all people, is the main reason why airlines, aircraft construction bureaus and regulators do anything to make millions of flights performed every year all around the world, absolutely safe for passengers. As aviators say, the rules in aviation are written in blood. They employ absolutely infallible logic, even if they seem strange or trivial to an ordinary passenger. So, just obey the rules and you will be absolutely fine.