Don’t Believe These Common Myths About Airplanes

Tampa, Florida, skyline with warm sunset light with a commercial passenger jet airline
Air travel comes with its share of myths and rumors. | mokee81/iStock/Getty Images

When you think about it, air travel is pretty amazing. Ever since the Wright brothers became the first human beings to go airborne in 1903, aviation has continued improving.

Taking to the skies today is safer than ever before — in fact, 2017 was the safest year for commercial air travel. So even if you harbor the common fear of flying, it’s not something you really need to worry about.

Air travel comes with its fair share of myths that many people believe are true. Read on to discover the most common lies — and stop believing them immediately.

Myth No. 1: You could get sucked out by someone opening the door mid-flight

Even if there’s a passenger intent on exiting your flight while you’re coasting over the Caribbean, it’s just not going to happen.

As Fortune explains, the inside of a plane cabin has much higher pressure than the air outside the plane. Assuming the door is a standard 6 feet tall by 3.5 feet wide, you’d need to overcome more than 24,000 pounds of pressure to get the door open.

So unless you happen to be sharing a flight with a suicidal Incredible Hulk, those doors are staying firmly shut until you’ve safely landed.

Next: Do superstitious pilots avoid flying through here?

Myth No. 2: Pilots avoid the Bermuda Triangle

If it’s the most direct route, pilots will fly through it. |

While the mystery of the Bermuda Triangle may make some people nervous, it’s not enough to deter most pilots from flying through it. This vaguely defined space is located between Puerto Rico, Florida, and Bermuda. If the fastest, most direct route happens to pass through it, then that’s the way the plane will travel.

Planes probably crash or disappear within this area due to tropical weather, which could technically happen anywhere.

Next: People believe this common event causes crashes.

Myth No. 3: The plane can get struck by lightning and crash

jet travelling through stormy sky
You probably won’t even notice a lightning strike. |

In fact, your plane might get struck by lightning without you even noticing.

The wings and tail were specifically built to dissipate electricity, making lightning storms rather benign while you’re flying through them. And while bad weather won’t make for a very relaxing flight, it’s usually not enough to take down the aircraft.

Next: This is what really happens if someone shoots out a window mid-flight.

Myth No. 4: You can get sucked out the windows

The windows are safe. | LiudmylaSupynska/iStock/Getty Images

Look closely at your airplane window and you might notice that there are three panes of glass and one of them has holes in it. But don’t let that worry you. The holes protect against pressure drops in the atmosphere and help to balance out the difference.

But what if someone shot a bullet hole through a window? Would you get sucked out then?

According to Reader’s Digest, the answer is no. You’d notice a rush of air into the cabin, the oxygen masks would drop, and the air would get noticeably colder. But other than that, nothing would change, and you definitely wouldn’t get sucked out.

Next: Are these types of planes more likely to crash?

Myth No. 5: Small planes are more dangerous

Propeller plane flying
They likely crash more often because of pilot inexperience. | Alexskiba/iStock/Getty Images

Some people say that flying in a small plane is “more dangerous than driving to the airport.” That’s simply not the case.

The biggest reason small planes crash more often than commercial planes is because of the pilots. Small aircraft pilots are much more likely to be amateurs who can lose control of the plane at any point and not know how to rectify the situation. It’s not necessarily dangerous to go for a ride in a small plane — as long as you trust the person flying it.

Next: Conspiracy theorists think this is a lie.

Myth No. 6: The oxygen masks don’t really have oxygen

The masks will help you. | Joseph Eid/AFP/Getty Images

Some people incorrectly believe that oxygen masks are just decoys to make you feel better in the event of an emergency.

While it’s not technically oxygen circulating in those masks, the combination of chemicals will allow you to breathe up to 15 minutes, which is plenty of time for the pilot to drop the plane to a lower altitude. It’s imperative that you put your mask on immediately once cabin pressure drops to avoid fainting during a rapid cabin pressure change.

Next: This is the real deal on cellphones.

Myth No. 7: Your cellphone can interfere with the plane’s navigation systems

Adorable little girl traveling by an airplane
The plane won’t crash because of a phone. |

Leaving your cellphone on won’t cause the plane to crash, but it could be dangerous.

The most important thing you can do during takeoff and landing is pay attention to what’s going on around you. It won’t benefit you if you’re scrolling through Instagram when something goes wrong and you need to take a specific action quickly.

Next: Here’s where human waste actually goes.

Myth No. 8: The crew dumps out pee and poop mid-flight

Occupied bathroom sign
Waste is stored in a tank. | frontpoint/iStock/Getty Images

This rumor is just disgusting.

While very early airplanes had primitive plumbing, modern planes don’t just dump human waste out during your flight like some kind of foul crop dusting.

The current version of the airplane toilet was invented in 1975. It works by sucking waste at super high speeds and storing it in a sealed tank near the rear of the aircraft until landing. After the plane reaches its destination, “honey trucks” come to siphon the collected waste and transfer it to a ground sewage system.

Next: Snopes busted this urban legend.

Myth No. 9: If you flush the toilet while sitting on it, you’ll get stuck there

airplane bathroom
There isn’t enough suction. | VVF/iStock/Getty Images

Yes, an airplane toilet has more powerful suction than your throne at home. But that doesn’t mean it has the power to trap you there. Even if you somehow created a “perfect” seal, it still wouldn’t be enough to glue your butt to the seat.

Next: Will the plane make you sick?

Myth No. 10: Germs thrive in airplane cabins thanks to recycled air

Couple talking on an airplane
It’s more your proximity to other passengers. | DigitalVision/iStock/Getty Images

A Honeywell survey found that almost half of all travelers surveyed believe this untrue myth.

In reality, the air is changed every one to three minutes, and 60% of that air is recycled through hospital grade filters that work to remove 95% of those pesky bacteria and germs.

If you do catch an illness from your flight, it’s more likely because of the close proximity to strangers and touching door handles or armrests without washing your hands. That’s why it’s not a bad idea to carry a stash of disinfecting wipes whenever you travel.

Next: Would your pilot abandon you?

Myth No. 11: The pilots have parachutes

pilots flying
They won’t bail out of the plane. | jacoblund/iStock/Getty Images

No, they don’t. Their job is to land the plane safely, not leave all their passengers in the lurch if things go wrong.

Next: Here’s how many people can fly the plane.

Myth No. 12: There’s only 1 pilot

two pilots flying a plane
Two pilots keep everyone safe. | MatusDuda/iStock/Getty Images

A co-pilot isn’t just a term of endearment.

On any given flight, there are always two individuals who are perfectly capable of handling the aircraft. The main pilot usually has seniority, but that doesn’t mean the co-pilot is just there for fun. If the pilot were to become incapacitated for some reason, the co-pilot could and would take over and get everyone to their destination safely.

That’s one reason why the pilot and co-pilot never eat the same meal — food poisoning for both would prove tricky. Eating separate meals ensures at least one pilot will be able to fly without running to the bathroom every two minutes.

Next: But do pilots actually do anything?

Myth No. 13: Planes fly on autopilot

Autopilot is just a tool to help the pilots. | Pascal Pavani/AFP/Getty Images

Sort of like your car’s cruise control, autopilot is there to help pilots, not take the place of them.

Autopilot in planes is an advanced GPS system that provides pilots with information regarding direction and position and helps guide their decision making. But even with autopilot, the humans in the cockpit are expected to actively fly the plane.

Next: This is the truth about alcohol.

Myth No. 14: It’s easier to get drunk on a plane

unopened bottle of water on a tray table in airplane
Dehydration is the issue. | tzam/iStock/Getty Images

You may feel drunker on a plane, but that doesn’t mean you really are.

Anyone — even people who aren’t imbibing — is more prone to get dehydrated on a flight, which can lead to feelings of nausea and dizziness. Those symptoms combined with drinking could make you feel more intoxicated than you really are.

Plus, you’re more likely to knock back alcoholic drinks faster than normal if you’re thirsty. Consider pacing yourself while you’re flying and always have plenty of water on hand.

Next: Don’t believe this oxygen myth.

Myth No. 15: Airlines want passengers to fall asleep

Happy couple on a plane
They’re not forcing you to nap. | iStock/Getty Images

There’s a rumor going around that airlines keep the oxygen levels in the cabin low on purpose to coax passengers into nodding off, which makes the flight attendants’ jobs easier. But there’s one fatal flaw in this reasoning.

Pilots share the same air as the passengers, so if that were true, they’d be feeling sleepy during the flight, too. And that’s just not safe.

Read more: 15 Secrets Airlines Don’t Want You to Know

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