Busted! 5 myths about flying debunked

Image credit: The Platinum Club

While international travel remains restricted in some countries around the world as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, many have started planning their next international vacation in a bid to suppress the travel bug.

Since the invention of the airplane, flying has become a way for people to both experience different places and cultures and a way to reunite families and loved ones together.

However, despite having grown into a massive industry around the world, there are still some myths around flying that has people asking questions. Wouter Vermeulen, General Manager Southern Africa Air France-KLM, has debunked some of the biggest questions travellers seem to have about flying.

Thunderstorms increase the risk of an airplane crash

Luckily, this is not the case. While pilots do avoid thunderstorms, it’s only because the related turbulence can be very uncomfortable for passengers.

In addition, lightning striking the aircraft can damage systems, but not to the extent that flight safety is impaired. If this happens, a special comprehensive inspection is conducted once the plane has landed.

It’s dangerous to fly during the COVID-19 pandemic

Airlines have always ensured that every step of your trip is as safe as possible and more steps to ensure a safe flying experience were put in place as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Physical interaction and contact between passengers and crew is limited. All meals (which are prepared in a kitchen with incredibly strict health and safety protocols in place) are now pre-packed on a tray and handed to every passenger throughout the various cabins on each flight.

Wearing of masks by cabin crew as well as all passengers are mandatory on board all flights, and masks must be worn for the duration of the flight. Additionally, air in the cabin is renewed every three minutes as a result of the aircraft’s HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) filters. These are used to filter 99.9% of the smallest viruses, including the Covid-19 coronavirus.

Crucially, cabin air is not circulated around the aircraft in a way that would allow the virus to reach other passengers. Air is sucked out of the cabin using vents in the floors, passed through the HEPA filters, mixed with fresh air from the outside and injected back in through air outlets and individual vents. This vertical movement of air forms a protective barrier between rows, making it highly unlikely that the virus could pass between passengers.

You can get sucked into an aircraft toilet

While the sucking sound certainly makes one think this is possible, passengers don’t need to worry about being sucked into the toilet. 

Aircraft toilets have a closed vacuum system. When you flush the toilet, a powerful vacuum system located near the waste tank sucks down anything that’s lying over the hole and draws it down into the tank. Luckily, the toilets and their vacuum systems are designed in a way that passengers won’t be sucked in.

An aircraft door can be opened during a flight

This is also a myth. The cabin doors can only be opened if the pressure on the inside and outside of the aircraft are virtually the same. The pressure inside and outside is certainly not the same after take-off. The air pressure at high altitude is dangerously low, which is why the cabin pressure is increased artificially.

If you look closely at aircraft doors, you’ll see that they fit into the aircraft almost like a cork. When the door is closed, cabin pressure is exerted on the door. The force with which this takes place is determined by the difference in interior and exterior air pressure and the surface area of the door.

In short, you can not just open the door at cruising altitude. Once the plane has landed, the pressure difference is minimised and the doors can be opened.

If you are born aboard an aircraft, you get to fly free of charge for the rest of your life

Regrettably, we have to disappoint you on this one…

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