5 Super nerdy (but interesting!) aviation facts – AvGeek Series

So we’ve all read those aviation facts a thousand times over haven’t we – the captain and first officer have different meals to avoid the risk of both becoming ill, our tastebuds change because of the low pressure resulting in everyone liking tomato juice all of a sudden, and we all turn in to raisins up there because the cabin air is apparently so dry.

But what about some interesting aviation facts that you might not know?
Hopefully one of two of these might be new to you!

1. Why is it called Port and Starboard?

Like a lot of things in Aviation, the terms Port and Starboard are nautical references.

Way back before boats/ships had rudders as we know them today, boats were steered with steering oars. Since most people are right-handed, the oar was placed over the right side of the boat so the sailor could comfortably hold it while looking forwards. Sailors began calling the right side the “steering side”, which later became known as a slang reference “starboard” by combining two old English words: stéor (which means “steer”) and bord (which means “the side of a boat”).

Since the steering oar was nearly always on the right of the boat, it was naturally easier to ‘dock’ at the port on the left hand side so the oar wasn’t in the way, hence the name “Port side”.

Interestingly in aviation, we still board a plane on the port (left) side, even though the rudder is well out of the way!

2. Percentage of world population to have flown

It’s impossible to know how many people fly every year, but Airspace Magazine estimate that only about 6% of the world’s population fly on average each year, and that only 11% of the world’s population have ever flown at all.

3. No smoking, but here’s an ash tray!

Smoking hasn’t been allowed on commercial flights in the western world for many years, but nearly all commercial planes still have ash trays in the toilets.

The thinking behind those ash trays is that if anyone does get desperate enough to smoke during their flight, its safer to dispose of the evidence properly than it would be for people to chuck it in the bin and cause a fire!

4. Strobe lights on Airbus aircraft flash twice, but Boeing’s only flash once

Okay. The title does state that these are super-nerdy, and you did click the link to read about it, so we’re all nerds, and we’re all here to talk strobe light flash patterns. Welcome.

Go and watch any planespotting video and you’ll see that Airbus strobes flash differently to Boeing!

5. Why does the captain sit on the left?

From what I can see, there are 3 reasons for this.

  1. In the early days of flying, the direction that the rotary engines turned meant that because of the engine torque, it was much easier to turn left than it was to turn right. Because of this, the captain would sit on the left to give them the best view in to the turn they would most commonly make.
  2. If 2 aircraft are flying towards each other, the internationally agreed rules state that each aircraft should pass on the right. This means that the pilot on the left has the best view of the other aircraft as it passes by.
  3. It’s also better on the ground – since passengers board on the left of the plane the captain will have the best view of what’s going on, and also a better view of the terminal building when taxiing.

Thank you for reading!

Do you have any super nerdy aviation facts or quirks you’d like to share?
Please leave a comment!

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