In this post I present you with 11 facts about airplanes, the aviation industry, and air travel. This post was originally a video I made while Britain was in its first lockdown in 2020 and has been updated to reflect the changes since.
The measures introduced in response to the coronavirus pandemic devastated economies and decimated the air, travel and tourism industries. Some airlines collapsed completely while others predicted it would take several years for them to restore their businesses to pre-pandemic levels. Airline staff have been made redundant with the inevitable impact on each individual and their families.
On the other hand, some people rejoiced at the sight of aircraft parked, skies cleared, and airports quiet. Environmental zealots had a blind spot when it came to the impact of lockdowns and all the travel restrictions that were imposed when it came to not just the UK economy but also those abroad that depend on tourism.
To the extent that the only flights operating in the dark days of 2020 were air cargo and emergency services, others counted the cost in terms of loss of employment, career setbacks, training suspended, and a whole list of problems not least of which is the effect on their mental health.
Eventually the aircraft took to the skies again. At least some pilots, cabin crew, and other airline staff were called back to their former positions, but as events in the spring of 2022 showed us, the airlines and the airport operators failed to restore their headcounts to sufficient levels. The pointless continuation of testing and isolating for what by 2022 had become a minor bug no worse than a cold meant that staff absenteeism was high as people were either forced or chose to take another few days off because they tested positive.
Personally, summer isn’t summer without the odd Tiger Moth flying by overhead at 1,500 ft and the airliners leaving contrails at 36,000 ft. So whether you are one of the ones who rejoiced at the sound of aero engines overhead once more, or who secretly wished the grounding of airline fleets could be made permanent, here are a few few facts to mull over while you look skyward as another EasyJet 737 heads for Malaga.
11 Facts About Airplanes & Air Travel
The first ten statistics for our list of airplane facts were taken from https://www.atag.org/ in April 2022.
- Over 87.7 million jobs are supported worldwide in aviation and related tourism. Of that figure, 11.3 million people work directly in the aviation industry.
We tend to think of airline staff as being pilots and flight attendants, but the industry also supports the taxi driver that drives you from the airport to hotel and the cleaner who cleans your room while you’re at a meeting or lying on the beach.
- 478 airlines operate a fleet of 33,299 aircraft serving 3,780 airports throughout a network of several million kilometres, managed by 162 air navigation service providers.
That’s an awful lot of ancillary staff and technology keeping a vital global network alive. Just think of all the mechanics who have to replace airplane tires. Think of the engineers who have to maintain the equipment that can check the air pressure in every tire in every passenger plane.
- In 2019, 4.5 billion passengers were carried by the world’s airlines. That’s 4.5 billion people who found a reason to board an aircraft.
That’s a huge number of passengers and their reasons for flying are far more diverse than just the usual assumptions that it’s for business or tourism.
- Globally, flights produced 915 million tonnes of CO2 in 2019. In other words, that’s 2% of the total CO2 produced by human activity which produced over 43 billion tonnes of CO2 in that year. This includes things like shipping or the Internet, both of which also account for about 2% each.
Aviation attracts more criticism for its CO2 output because it’s more visible, yet shipping and and all the online activity of the world’s population produce similar ammounts. The passenger airplane of the future will produce far less due to the developments being made in aero engine technology.
- Commercial airplanes in service today are well over 80% more fuel efficient per seat kilometre than the first jets of the 1960s at the dawn of the Jet Age.
Aircraft and aerospace technology is evolving all the time. It’s in the best interest of the airline industry (as well as the planet) that aircraft become quieter, cleaner, and more fuel efficient. Aero engines that are more efficient help to reduce operating costs.
- Around 80% of the CO2 generated by aviation are emitted from flights of over 1500 kilometres for which there is no practical alternative mode of transport.
Sometimes road, rail, or sea isn’t a viable means of making the same journey. Besides, those methods have their own carbon footprint. The net carbon cost of a direct flight by air has to be compared to that of a the same journey by ship or overland.
- Since 2000, the retrofitting of winglets on aircraft has generated a saving of over 80 million tonnes of CO2. Sometimes small design changes to aircraft can have a significant cumulative effect.
- Deliveries of fresh produce from Africa to the UK support the livelihoods of 1.5 million people while producing less CO2 than similar produce grown in the UK, despite the energy used in the transportation of that produce. This just goes to show that there’s plenty of room for more efficiency and sustainable technology within agriculture in the UK and Europe.
- The Airbus A380 and A220, Boeing 787, ATR-600 and Embraer E2 aircraft use less than three litres of jet fuel per 100 passenger kilometres making them as fuel efficient as most modern compact cars. Yes, really.
- Globally, the average occupancy of aircraft is 82% greater than other forms of transport.
Airlines like to fly aircraft at full capacity so they tend to work harder at filling seats. They can’t afford to allow aircraft to fly half empty so they put a lot more effort into selling their seats than their counterparts in the rail and road sectors.
- Aviation is essential for conservation projects abroad. Tourists who fly to far off places to enjoy ecotourism are the lifeblood of conservation projects.
Without them, many of these projects that have taken years of painstaking effort to build are in danger of collapse, and rare species are at greater risk from poachers and habitat destruction. The vast majority of these ecoutourists arrive by air.
To deter slash-and-burn agriculture and to encourage the rural populations of developing countries to preserve the habitats and to live in close cooperation with the natural world they need to be incentivised by economic enrichment. Air travel can play a leading role in that process.
So rejoice when you see those airliners in the sky. It means that not only is our economy being strengthened, but also the economies of those countries and islands who depend on tourism to feed, clothe, and educate their children. It also means that eco tourists are returning to where they are needed and appreciated, and where their money sustains essential wildlife conservation projects.
When airlines return to profit it means there is more money to invest in research and design for cleaner, quieter, and even more sustainable aviation.
More Facts About Airplanes
Throughout the years, airplanes have advanced significantly since the Wright brothers first took flight in 1903. Today, airplane windows are made of thick, tempered glass that can withstand a tremendous amount of pressure. They are also coated with a UV-resistant material to protect passengers from harmful sun rays.
In addition to their strength and durability, they also provide passengers with stunning views of the world below. So next time you’re enjoying the view from your window seat, remember that you’re also looking at one of the airplane’s most important safety features.
Cabin Pressure & Humidity
The airplane cabin is pressurized to keep passengers comfortable and to prevent the detrimental effects of low pressure. The average airplane cabin pressure is the equivalent of spending time at an altitude lower than 8,000 feet.
Airplane cabins are not pressurized to sea level pressure because it would require too much energy to pump all of the air into the airplane. airplane cabins are also kept at a humidity level of 20%, which is lower than the typical humidity level found at ground level, to prevent any condensation from forming on the airplane windows.
As we all know, airplane toilets are small, cramped, and often full of things that you don’t want to think about. But they are also a necessary part of flying. Here are some facts about the airplane bathroom that you may not know:
- airplane toilets flush with compressed air, not water. This means that they use far less water than traditional toilets.
- airplane toilets are designed to empty into a holding tank below the plane. The tank is then emptied when the aircraft lands.
- airplane toilets sometimes have a special device called a “piddle pack” that collects urine in a separate container. This helps to reduce odors and keep the toilet clean.
- airplane toilets can be very loud when they flush. This is because the compressed air is released through a small hole in the toilet bowl.
So there you have it, some facts about airplane toilets that you may not have known. Although they may not be the most glamorous part of flying, they are an essential part of the experience.
Airbus A380 is the world’s largest passenger airliner, with a standard seating capacity of 853 passengers. It was designed and manufactured by Airbus, a subsidiary of Airbus Group. The A380 made its maiden flight on 27 April 2005 and was introduced into service on 25 October 2007 with Singapore Airlines. The A380 is a double-deck, wide-body, four-engine jet airliner. It is the first airliner with more than two decks and the first to have a twin-deck configuration for part of its length.
The Wright Brothers
The Wright brothers are credited with inventing and building the world’s first successful airplane and making the first controlled powered flight, on December 17, 1903. Their work culminated in creating and flying the Wright Flyer, powered by their Wright Snow Engine. They gained the mechanical skills essential for their success by working for years in their shop with printing presses, bicycles, motors, and other machinery.
Orville was born near Dayton, Ohio; Wilbur was born near Richmond, Indiana. By 1901 they had designed and built a glider that could stay in the air for about 20 seconds. The Wrights conducted thousands of additional test flights over the next two years before succeeding with powered flight on December 17, 1903.
The first powered airplane was invented by the Wright brothers in 1903 who are credited with inventing and building the world’s first successful airplane and making the first controlled, powered, heavier-than-air flight on December 17, 1903.
The brothers conducted extensive tests and experiments with their invention before making their historic first flight. After years of development and testing, the Wright brothers’ first airplane was ready for its maiden voyage.
On that fateful day in December, Orville piloted the first airplane while Wilbur ran alongside to stabilize it. The plane flew for just 12 seconds and covered a distance of 120 feet (37 meters). Although it was a very short flight, it was a monumental achievement that changed the world forever.
It’s now over 100 years since the Wright Brothers flew that first plane and we now take commercial flights across continents for granted. Since that day the aviation industry has grown in leaps and bounds, and airplanes have become an essential part of our lives.
The Boeing 747 is a wide-body passenger jet that was first introduced in 1969. Since then, it has become one of the most recognizable and widely-used airplanes in the world. The 747 is typically used for long-haul flights, and it can carry up to 660 passengers.
One of the most famous 747s is the “City of New York”, which was used by Pan American Airways for transatlantic flights between New York and London. The City of New York is now on display at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.
Though it has been replaced by newer models in many cases, the Boeing 747 remains an iconic symbol of the jet age.
World’s Oldest Airline
Founded in 1909, KLM is the world’s oldest airline. Headquartered in Amsterdam, the airline flies to more than 145 destinations in more than 70 countries. KLM’s fleet consists of 110 aircraft, and the airline has a staff of more than 35,000+ employees.
KLM is a member of the SkyTeam alliance, which includes 20 airlines and serves more than 1,000 destinations worldwide. KLM’s main hub is Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, and the airline has a strong focus on providing excellent customer service. In fact, KLM was ranked as the world’s most punctual airline in 2017 and 2018.