8 Terrifying Airline Secrets

  • How much do you (want to) know?

    We dug around and found some dirty info on flying. This has been compiled in an effort to make you a more informed air traveler, not to scare you out of your mind. Photo Credit: Dave Heuts
    Toxic air
  • Toxic air

    Turns out the air in the plane’s cabin may be more than just stuffy. CNN reports that, "Leaks in the seals that keep engine oil in place could cause chemically laden fumes to enter the air stream, said William Nazaroff, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at University of California, Berkeley. 'A specific chemical of concern is tricresyl phosphate,' he said, a chemical compound used in nerve agents and pesticides. 'Historically, there have been some neurotoxic health consequences from high human exposures to [tricresyl phosphate].'" But how often are passengers exposed to fumes like tricresyl phosphate? "The Committee on Toxicity in the United Kingdom, a group made up of independent experts who advise government agencies, said in September 2007 that pilots reported events in 1 percent of flights and that maintenance inspected and confirmed incidents in 0.05 percent of flights," CNN reported. That doesn't sound like much, but consider this: On a given day there are more than 28,000 commercial flights in the United States. That means that as many as 14 of them have this nasty air problem… every day. Yikes. Join MainStreet on Facebook! Photo Credit: markhillary
    Spying on you?
  • Spying on you?

    According to a recent Associated Press article, one airline was hacking a passenger's e-mails when it didn't like what the passenger had to say about their service. "A passenger rights advocate accused Delta Air Lines Inc. in a federal lawsuit Tuesday of conspiring with a Virginia company to obtain hacked e-mails from her computer to help them derail her efforts to protect air travelers from lengthy tarmac delays and other inconveniences." Read more about this lovely incident here. Photo Credit: gerlos
    General filth & coliform bacteria
  • General filth & coliform bacteria

    According to this WebMD blog posting, a microbiologist working for the company that manufactures Lysol "conducted a clandestine study of airplane cleanliness by secretly taking swabs from the tray tables, bathrooms, air ducts, etc. on several flights around the U.S. The results were VERY eye-opening since several of those cultures grew out coliform bacteria (bacteria from our intestinal tract), and not necessarily found just in the toilet areas. He found it on the tray tables! He also found Streptococcus, Staphylococcus, and other disease-causing organisms throughout the plane." It's official: I am never touching anything on an airplane again. Photo Credit: universidadcatolica
    Coliform bacteria... in the drinking water!
  • Coliform bacteria... in the drinking water!

    In addition to not touching your coliform bacteria infested tray table, you may want to avoid drinking any water while in-flight. A couple years ago, the EPA tested drinking water on airplanes and the results were less than comforting: "nearly 13% of tested aircraft carried water was contaminated with coliform bacteria, thus failing to meet EPA standards. In November and December 2004, the water on more than 17% of the aircraft tested fell below the agency's standards," USA Today reported. That's right: the bacteria that's typically found in fecal matter was also present in drinking water. You may want to order a canned beverage next time. USA Today's article also suggests that you "just say no to ice cubes." Photo Credit: Jeremy Barwick
    Frighteningly low pilot pay
  • Frighteningly low pilot pay

    Congress reportedly "expressed shock and dismay to learn that regional airline pilots start at very low salaries after the NTSB said the co-pilot on the Colgan Air commuter plane that crashed near Buffalo on Feb. 12 earned only $16,000 a year. (The company later said she earned $23,900.)" That's just sad. Most of us probably know waiters who make more than $16,000 per year. What companies are giving out fair salaries? Southwest (Stock Quote: LUV), according to a Wall Street Journal blog: "At the top end of the airline scale, Southwest Airlines has a first-year minimum of $49,572. Southwest typically hires more-experienced pilots than other airlines do, so it can demand thousands of hours in the logbook -– enough to qualify to fly as a captain -– from its applicants." Photo Credit: Getty Images
    Mid-air brawls?
  • Mid-air brawls?

    It's never good when a pilot is distracted in-flight. But it's especially bad when that pilot is distracted because he is in a literal fistfight with a crew member. This reportedly happened on a recent Air India flight, where an "incident took place aboard the IC-884 flight that was also reportedly left unmanned during the mid-air scuffle that broke out between the pilots and cabin crew Saturday. But Air India Monday denied the flight remained unmanned during the scuffle." Why can’t we all just get along? (By “we all” I mean pilots in midflight and everyone else.) Photo Credit: Getty Images
    Risk of runway collisions
  • Risk of runway collisions

    In 2007, the National Transportation Safety Board released to the media "dramatic animation of two runway near-collisions" to encourage rapid improvements in runway safety procedures. In one of the incidents, a "jet takes off, coming within 35 feet of" another plane. Scary stuff. To give you an idea of how often this happens, there were reportedly 339 near-collision incidents in fiscal 2002. Photo Credit: deadling
    Deadly bird strikes
  • Deadly bird strikes

    As MSNBC notes, "A goose striking a plane at lift-off is equivalent to a 1,000-pound weight." How big of a risk are bird strikes? "More than 200 people have been killed worldwide as a result of wildlife strikes with aircraft since 1988, according to Bird Strike Committee USA, and more than 5,000 bird strikes were reported by the U.S. Air Force in 2007," the article explains. No one, however, seems to be tracking the number of birds killed in these incidents. So unfair. Join MainStreet on Facebook! Photo Credit: laprimadonna
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