Airplane Facts


  1. The wings of the airplane are just one component of flight. There are actually four forces of flight that push the plane up, down, forward, or slow it down. These four forces of flight are lift, thrust, drag, and weight.
  2. The Wright brothers invented and flew the first airplane in 1903. It is considered the world’s first “sustained and controlled heavier-than-air powered flight.” Their aircraft, the Wright Flyer, flew about 120 feet. Today, the newest Boeing 787 can fly 10,000 miles on a single tank of gas.
  3. One the most deadly airplane accidents actually happened on the ground. In 1977, two fully loaded planes carrying a total of over 600 passengers collided head-on in the middle of the runway in what is now known as the Tenerife Accident, named after Tenerife Island where the accident occurred. Over 500 people died.
  4. Increases in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are increasing the incidents of airplane turbulence.
  5. The oxygen in an airplane’s emergency oxygen masks lasts for only about 15 minutes.
  6. English is the international language of flight. All flight controllers and all commercial pilots who fly on international flights are required to speak English.
  7. he world’s smallest jet is the BD-5 Micro. Its wingspan is 14–21 feet and weighs just 358 pounds.
  8. One windshield or window frame of a Boeing 747-400’s cockpit costs as much as a BMW.
  9. Most pilots and copilots on major airlines are not allowed to eat the same food to avoid the possibility of food poisoning sickening the entire flight crew. Airport control tower windows must be angled at precisely 15 degrees from vertical at the top to decrease reflections from both inside and outside the tower.
  10. The average Boeing 747 has around 150–175 miles of wiring inside it.
  11. The C-5, one of the longest military aircrafts, is longer than six stories tall. Its length of 143 feet is longer than the Wright Brother’s first flight of 120 feet.
  12. The Boeing 767 sucks in enough air through its engines to fill a Good Year Blimp in 7 seconds.
  13. The tires of a Boeing KC-135 jet tanker’s landing gear consist of 8 main gear wheels and two nose wheels. This is enough material to make 100 automobile tires.
  14. There have been more astronauts than pilots who have flown the Concorde, which is now out of service. The Concorde was a turbo jet-powered, supersonic passenger jet airliner that was in service from 1976 to 2003. Many consider the aircraft an engineering marvel.
  15. The first woman in the U.S. to become licensed to fly a play was Harriet Quimby (1875–1912) in 1911. She was also the first woman to fly across the English Channel.
  16. Amelia Earhart (1897–1937) was the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean. She also helped created “The Ninety-Nines,” which was an organization for female pilots, who also achieved many other notable accomplishments.
  17. Commercial airport runways are typically 2 to 4 feet thick with layers of asphalt. Taxiways are usually thinner, with around 18 inches of concrete.
  18. Airplanes typically fly at an altitude of around 35,000 feet. If Earth were the size of a desktop globe, a plane at that height would be flying at only 1/10 of an inch off the surface.
  19. The world’s largest passenger plane is the Airbus A380. It is a double-decker four-engine jetliner. It made its first flight on April 27, 2005.
  20. The world’s fastest airplane is the Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird, flying at 2,193 miles per hour. It has held the record for nearly 40 years.
  21. According to Popular Mechanics, sitting in the tail of an airplane improves chances of accident survival by 40%.
  22. The Antonov AN-225 cargo jet is the largest plane in the world. It is nearly as big as a football field from nose to tail and wingtip to wingtip. It was originally built to transport a space plane.
  23. Approximately 95.7% of those involved in a plane crash survive it.
  24. The amount of fuel that a Boeing 767-400 carries is enough to fill 1,400 minivans.
  25. The world’s largest passenger airliner, the Airbus A380, has about 4 million parts.
  26. A jet’s contrails (or white trails) consist of water vapor and can be used to predict the weather. A thin, shorter tail indicates low humidity and fair weather. A thick, longer lasting tail signifies the early indication of a storm.
  27. A commercial jet has an average cruising speed of 550–580 mph.
  28. Known as the “Glider King,” Otto Lilienthal (1848–1896) invented the first gliders that could travel longer distances and carry people. The Wright Brothers cite Lilienthal’s research as a major inspiration for their own work. Berlin’s busiest airport is named after him.
  29. The world’s busiest airport is the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, at over 96 million passengers a year. Beijing Capital International Airport is in second place, with more than 86 million passengers a year. However, in the spirit of friendly rivalry, Chicago’s O’Hare is the busiest in the world in terms of take offs and landings.
  30. In the United States, 2 million passengers board more than 30,000 flights—every day.
  31. Airbus is working on a transparent plane that would offer passengers a 360-degree view as they fly.
  32. The U.S. airline industry makes about $170 billion in revenue each year. The industry constitutes 600 companies, with the top 10 composing over 75% of the industry revenue. The top 10 include American, Delta, and United Continental.
  33. Worldwide, the airline industry generates about US$640 billion.
  34. The atmosphere in an airplane cabin dries out a person’s nose, and the changing air pressure numbs about 1/3 of a person’s taste buds. This is one reason for airlines adding lots of spices and salt to their foods. Additionally, tomato juice tastes less acidic in the air.
  35. The risk of being killed in a plane crash for the average American is 1 in 11 million. The risk of being killed in a car accident is 1 in 5,000.
  36. Mercury is not allowed on a flight. Even a small amount of mercury can seriously damage aluminum, which is what most planes are made from. Airplanes that are exposed to mercury are usually quarantined.
  37. Between 43% and 54% of pilots surveyed in the U.K., Norway, and Sweden admitted to have fallen asleep while flying a passenger plane. One third of them stated that when they woke up, they discovered that their co-pilots had also fallen asleep.
  38. Research shows that the first 3 minutes after takeoff and the final 8 minutes before landing are when 80% of plane crashes happen.
  39. Orville Wright did not sit in the Wright Flyer during its first flight. Instead, he lay flat on the lower wing in the middle of the plane.
  40. Neil Armstrong carried a piece of the Wright Flyer with him to the moon
  41. About 1 in 5 people have some of fear flying, or “aviophobia.”
  42. During a 1994 flight, a mother tragically lost her grip on her infant daughter she was holding on her lap when the aircraft experienced violent gyrations. While the mother survived, her daughter died.
  43. In 1987, American Airlines saved $40,000 by removing 1 olive from each salad served in first class.