Flying trivia

Here is some trivia I have found in books and on the web about flying:

Who made the first flight in an aeroplane? We don’t know his name but he beat the Wright Brothers to it by fifty years. He worked for Sir George Cayley (1773–1857), an aristocratic Yorkshireman and pioneer of aeronautics, who carried out the first truly scientific study of how birds fly. Cayley correctly described the principles of ‘lift, drag and thrust’ that govern flight and this led him to build a series of prototype flying machines. His early attempts with flapping wings (powered by steam and gunpowder engines) failed, so he turned his attention to gliders instead. In 1804 he demonstrated the world’s first model glider and, five years later, tested a full-sized version – but without a pilot. More than three decades passed before he finally felt ready to trust his ‘governable parachute’ with a human passenger. In 1853, at Brompton Dale near Scarborough, the intrepid baronet persuaded his reluctant coachman to steer the contraption across the valley. It was this anonymous employee who became the first human ever to fly in a heavier-than-air machine. The coachman, so the story goes, was not impressed. He handed in his notice as soon as he landed, saying, ‘I was hired to drive, not to fly.’ A modern replica of Cayley’s glider, now on show at the Yorkshire Air Museum, successfully repeated the flight across Brompton Dale in 1974. But wings weren’t Sir George’s only legacy. With his work on the glider’s landing gear, he literally reinvented the wheel. Needing something light but strong to absorb the aircraft’s impact on landing, he came up with the idea of using wheels whose spokes were held at tension, rather than being carved from solid wood. These went on to transform the development of the bicycle and the car and are still widely used today. And that wasn’t all. Cayley was a remarkably prolific inventor, developing self-righting lifeboats, caterpillar tracks for bulldozers, automatic signals for railway crossings and seat belts. Even more remarkably, he offered all these inventions for the public good, without expecting any financial reward.

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According to the Airports Council International, 88,032,086 people flew in or out of Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in Georgia, USA, in 2009. Hartsfield-Jackson was also busiest by flight numbers, with 970,235 in and out.

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Which aircraft manufacturer has produced the most aircraft to date? Not Boeing or Airbus, but in fact the Cessna Aircraft Company of Wichita, Kansas, USA, which had built 192,967 aircraft up to 2010.

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Aeroplanes do not dump the contents of their lavatories overboard. The waste is contained in a holding tank, which is emptied when the aircraft lands. Great care is taken to ensure that this tank is secure. Even if a mad pilot wanted to jettison it, access to the tank is located on the outside of the plane. On very rare occasions, ice can fall from aeroplanes. Some 3 million flights pass through British airspace every year; in the same period, the Civil Aviation Authority gets just twenty to thirty reports of possible icefalls. The CAA investigates all such complaints by checking the relevant flight paths. Over the past twenty years, they estimate that five people have been hit by small amounts of falling ice. In July 2009 a lump of ice the size of a football crushed the roof of a car in Loughborough, Leicestershire, but no flights were in the area at the time and the incident has been put down to a freak conglomeration of hailstones. If ice does fall from a plane, it is either water that has frozen on the wings owing to the high altitude (which melts off as the plane comes into land) or water from the air-conditioning system that has leaked through a faulty seal on to the fuselage. Aircraft toilets often add a blue chemical to the water to deodorise the waste and break down any solids, but any blue ice that falls to the ground is a result of a fault in the input pipe. It cannot come out of the toilet itself or from the holding tank, which is a fully integrated, sealed unit. In the USA the Federal Aviation Authority is equally adamant. No American has ever been hit by anything falling from an aircraft lavatory. Phone calls to the FAA complaining about brown droplets coming from the sky always increase during the bird migration season. The FAA also blames so-called ‘blue ice’ on incontinent birds that have been eating blueberries.

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Modern sunglasses were a consequence of twentieth-century flight, designed by the American Army Air Corps in 1932 to keep the glare out of a pilot’s eyes.

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During the Second World War, Native American paratroopers began the custom of shouting the name of the great Indian chief Geronimo when jumping from a plane because, according to legend, when cornered at a cliff’s edge by U.S. cavalrymen, Geronimo, in defiance, screamed his own name as he leaped to certain death, only to escape both injury and the bluecoats.

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When the hideous sport of cockfighting was legal, the birds were taken to a pit in the ground where they fought to the death. These fights were quick and bloody, and for this reason, the “cockpit” became the designated name of the room on a warship were surgeons attended the wounded and dying. During the First World War, pilots, like the roosters, were inserted into a confined space to do battle, and so they named that space the cockpit.

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The dashing image of First World War fighter pilots wearing long silk scarves had nothing to do with fashion. The open-cockpit biplanes were very primitive with no rear-view mirror, so the pilot depended entirely on his own vision to avoid or mount an attack. The scarf was used to wipe grease from his goggles and to keep his neck from chafing against his collar as he constantly turned his head while watching for the enemy.

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The phrase “jet lag” was once called boat lag, back before airplanes existed.

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Although air stewards had been operating since 1922, the first stewardess did not take off until May 15, 1930. She was Miss Ellen Church, of Iowa, who had written to United Airlines to suggest that suitably qualified young ladies might perform a useful function on flights. The airline was so impressed that they not only employed her but also gave her the job of drawing up qualifications for further recruits. Miss Church’s specifications were clearly modeled on what she considered her own best points: applications would be considered only from registered nurses no older than twenty-five. They must weigh no more than 115 lb. and not be more than 5 ft. 4 in. tall. Britain was slow to follow the lead set by America, perhaps fearful of a repetition of the strong hostility to the air hostesses shown by U.S. pilots’ wives. The first British air hostess was Miss Daphne Kearley, who made her first flight on May 16, 1936. Typing and cocktail-mixing were among the skills required, though her own account of the job suggested that the work consisted mainly of calming down anxious passengers and turning down marriage proposals. By the time British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC) began to recruit stewardesses in 1943, the principal qualifications were already less demanding. At the top of the list were “poise” and an “educated voice.”

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On June 15, 1928, the train “The Flying Scotsman” beat an airplane in a race from London to Edinburgh.

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Why do kamikaze pilots wear helmets? Kamikaze is the Japanese word meaning divine wind, named after a typhoon that is said to have saved Japan from Mongol invasion in 1281 After the attacks of the Japanese air force on the Allies’ ships in World War II, “kamikaze” has universally come to mean a suicide pilot. Toward the end of the war the Allies began advancing toward Japan, and Japanese aircraft were often outnumbered and outclassed, resulting in a scarcity of adept pilots At the same time, the Japanese air force was assigned the task of assisting the Japanese ships in the Leyte Gulf The task was larger than could be accommodated, so Vice Admiral Takijio Onishi formed a Kamikaze Special Attack Force There were many volunteers to be pilots, but experienced and valuable pilots were turned away, with most kamikaze pilots being young university students Ceremonies were often held before missions, in which the pilots were given medals of honor Approximately 6,000 Japanese soldiers died in the kamikaze missions, and all are thought to have been volunteers. Given that kamikaze pilots knew they were to die, people sometimes wonder why they wore helmets In fact, the helmets weren’t worn to protect the pilots from dying, but to protect them from injuries during the flight so that they reached the target, to keep their heads warm and because the helmets housed radio earphones The helmets merely helped the pilots to complete their missions because the helmets were necessary to pilot the aircraft In addition, many missions were unsuccessful and if this was likely, pilots were encouraged to return to base and the helmets assisted with this Many say that the pilots didn’t wear helmets at all (and no pilots did at that time), but merely wore leather flight caps and goggles, but that these were worn for the same reasons—to help the pilot complete the mission,

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