11. The toilets are actually vacuums
Unlike your toilet at home that siphons water down into the sewer, airplane toilets are basically vacuums: a valve opens when you flush, and the air pressure sucks what’s in the bowl down into a tank located in the tail of the plane. It uses about half a gallon of water and can flush in any direction. But older planes with outdated toilet systems are still up there flying, hence the occasional reports of raw frozen sewage falling from the sky.
10. Usually, turbulence only drops you a few feet in the air
Though you might feel like you’re on the top floor of Tower of Terror, run-of-the-mill light turbulence only drops the plane a few feet in altitude. Moderate turbulence — the kind pilots tell the flight attendants to sit down for — moves the plane 10-20 feet. Severe, white-knuckle, talk-about-it-for-the-rest-of-your-life turbulence might move a plane 100 feet in the most extreme circumstances.
9. More people die from plane exhaust than plane crashes
Plane crashes — especially in large commercial jets — are extremely rare now. Fewer than 1,000 people die in plane crashes each year, including small planes. But a 2010 MIT study found that about 10,000 deaths a year are attributable to toxic pollutants emitted by jet engines. So maybe think twice before lining up behind that runway in St. Maarten.
8. That little hole in the plane window might save your life
You ever notice that little hole in the bottom of your window? That’s the breather hole, and besides keeping in warm air so you don’t get too chilly, it regulates pressure — ensuring that should anything happen to the outer pane of the window, the pressure won’t cause the inner pane to break, at which point you’d suddenly be sucking in oxygen at 35,000 feet. Consider it Phase 1 before you get to the masks.