Holiday travel season is here, and there's nothing more draining than waiting in long security lines at the airport, or sitting in one of those slippery leather chairs while your flight is perpetually delayed. And because some of you unfortunately aren't home yet, we know you'll have a lot of time to kill ahead of you.
That's why we're here to help. We now know it's not dangerous to use cell phones during flight -- whether they're annoying is another question altogether -- but here's some more fun information about flying. So, while you wait for your journey to be complete, with visions of turkey and stuffing in your head, prepare yourself for that awkward middle-seat conversation with these 13 facts about flying. We wouldn't actually recommend incorporating them in your chat:
1. Pilots and copilots are required to eat different meals.
A pilot for China Eastern Airlines told CNN that the pilot and copilot must eat different meals "just in case one of the meals might cause food poisoning." Also, the pilot usually gets the first class meal while the copilot gets the business class one. Seniority perk.
2. The odds of being in a plane crash are astronomically tiny.
Aviophobia is a fear of flying -- a lot of people have it, but here's one thing that might lessen their fear: The annual risk of being killed in a plane crash for the average American is 1 in 11 million. Compare that to the 1 in 5,000 risk of being killed in a car accident and you're sure to feel safer -- in the skies at least.
3. But, if you were to crash, the back of the plane is the safest place to be.
A study by Popular Mechanics determined that passengers who sit near the tail of the plane are 40 percent more likely to survive a crash than those up front in the first few rows.
4. Worldwide, the airline industry generates about $640 billion.
That's right. And the 600 airline companies in the U.S. industry make an annual revenue of about $175 billion.
5. Food tastes different on an airplane.
Before a plane takes off, the atmosphere inside the cabin dries out our noses, and as the plane goes higher, the change in air pressure numbs about a third of taste buds. That's why a lot of people order Bloody Mary's; tomato juice is less acidic up in the air. It's also why a lot of airlines add heavy amounts of salt and spice to dishes.
6. American Airlines once cut costs by removing one olive from each of their salads.
In the 1980's, Robert Crandall, then head of American Airlines, made the deal with airline food, saving the company $40,000 a year by removing one olive from each in-flight salad.
7. A Boeing 727 took off in 2003 and has been missing ever since.
On May 25, 2003, pilot Benjamin Padilla, took off in the 727 he'd purchased from American Airlines two years earlier. The plane then disappeared forever. No one knows where it is. Padilla's sister has told authorities she believes Padilla crashed somewhere in Africa or that he is being held against his will. But ... where is the plane?
8. The white trail a plane leaves in the sky can be used to predict the weather.
The contrails planes leave behind are made of water vapor. A thin, shorter-lasting tail indicates low-humidity air and fair weather. A thick, longer-lasting tail could signify the early indicators of a storm.
9. "Blunder Trophies" used to be given to pilots who made ridiculous mistakes.
The National Museum of the US Air Force displays "Blunder Trophies" from the 1920's and the early 1930's presented at the McCook and Wright Fields. These trophies were given to silly pilots who made mistakes like taxiing into a parked airplane or taking off without enough fuel. We're guessing these things weren't so funny at the time.
10. Spilling mercury on a plane could really ruin your flight.
Since planes are basically huge vessels made out of aluminum, and mercury disrupts the chemical structure of aluminum, it would be in your best interest not to bring any on your next flight. The moment mercury comes into contact with uncoated aluminum, it starts tearing it away from its larger structure. Now we understand the rumors of governments during World Wars attempting to sabotage each other's planes by smearing mercury on them. Chemistry can be so cruel!
11. It is impossible to open a plane door mid-flight.
At least you don't have to worry about any crazies attempting to open a door in the middle of flying. Once a plane takes off, the cabin starts to pressurize, creating greater pressure inside the plane than outside. On top of all that pressure, aircraft doors are designed to be fail-safe. To open a door, it has to be moved in and turned slightly before it can be pushed out and open. Even several strong humans wouldn't be able to open a door with such locks and pressurized conditions.
12. A commercial jet has an average cruising speed of 550-580 mph.
13. The world's busiest airport is Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.
95.5 million passengers and 930,000 takeoffs and landings every year make Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport the busiest in the entire world. However, Dubai's new airport, Dubai World Central, is set to take over the title. The massive $32 billion dollar structure is expected to shuttle 160 million passengers a year.