Pilot reveals what happens when you flush the toilet mid-flight and why phones probably aren’t that bad
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Patrick Smith wrote the book to dispel common myths around flying
It covers topics including terrorism, airfares, turbulence and delays
In the book, Smith claims phones ‘potentially’ interfere with systems but in ‘all likelihood’ don’t
He adds that everyday turbulence could not bring down a plane and it’s impossible to open doors during flight
Ever wondered what happens when you flush a toilet on a plane – or if interference from phones is the real reason they are banned on flights?
A new book, written by airline pilot and Patrick Smith, takes some of the most frequently asked questions and answers them in the form of anecdotes and rants.
Called Cockpit Confidential, it features chapters on terrorism, fares, delays and common myths as well as giving an exclusive insight into how planes fly and what can cause them to crash.
There has been much debate about whether the energy emitted from mobile phones can cause electronic systems on planes, and even in hospitals, to crash or malfunction.
On this subject Smith says in his book: ‘Few rules are more confounding to airline passengers than those regarding the use of cell phones and portable electronic devices.
‘Passengers should know that the restrictions pertaining to computers, iPods, and certain other devices aren’t about electronic interference.
‘The main reasons laptops need to be put away is to prevent them from becoming high-speed projectiles in the event of an impact or sudden deceleration.
‘Your computer is a piece of luggage, and luggage needs to be stowed so it doesn’t kill somebody or get in the way.’
He continues that although cellular communication can ‘potentially’ interfere with cockpit equipment, ‘in all likelihood’ it doesn’t.
He also adds that the machines and electronics in airplanes and cockpits have been designed to shield against any interference.
This means the authorities are ‘erring on the better-safe-than-sorry side’ because although there have been no proven cases where a phone has ‘adversely affected the outcome of a flight’, Smith believes that ‘you never know.’
One example Smith gives is if the shielding is old or doesn’t work properly, then the protection could suffer and this could potentially lead to problems.
‘The policy is clearly stated, but obviously unenforced, and we assume the risks are minimal or else phones would be collected or inspected visually rather than relying on the honor system,’ said Smith.
‘I’d venture to guess at least half of all phones, whether inadvertently or out of laziness, are left on during flight. That’s about a million phones a day in the United States.
‘If indeed this was a recipe for disaster, I think we’d have more evidence by now.’
The book also tackles the subject of turbulence. Smith explained: ‘Conditions might be annoying and uncomfortable, but the plane is not going to crash. Turbulence is an aggravating nuisance for everybody, including the crew, but it’s also, for lack of a better term, normal.’
lanes are engineered to handle turbulent conditions and the level of turbulence required to dislodge an engine or bend a wing spar is something even the most frequent flyer won’t experience in a lifetime of traveling.’
During the 1980s, toilets on planes used a blue liquid that pushed waster from the bowl into a storage tank.
This liquid added weight to the aircraft, which consumed more fuel, and if it leaked, frozen blocks of waste could end up falling over town and cities.
On modern-day planes, such as the ones Smith flies, this toilet system has been replaced by a vacuum. When the toilet is flushed a valve opens to a sewer pipe and the waste is sucked into a tank.
The waste is then stored in the tank until the plane lands and ground crew vacuum it out and dispose of it.
And on the subject of doors opening mid-flight, Smith stresses the point that: ‘You cannot – repeat, cannot – open the doors or emergency hatches of an airplane in flight. You can’t open them for the simple reason that cabin pressure won’t allow it. Think of an aircraft door as a drain plug, fixed in place by the interior pressure.’
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