Why Does Your Seat Need to Be In an Upright Position During Takeoff and Landing?

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iStock

Landing is no one’s favorite part of a plane ride. Aside from the bumps and jolts, you have to interrupt your nap and put your seat-back into its rigid, straight-up position, which is comfortable for exactly no one. Like many quirks of air travel, the requirement has its roots in safety regulations. There are multiple reasons that flight attendants are insistent about your seat-back position during takeoff and landing, according to Condé Nast Traveler.

Airplane seats are the main source of protection for passengers during a crash, and the upright position is their locked position. In the event of a crash, the whiplash movement of a reclined seat poses a threat to both the passenger sitting in it and the passenger behind it. Plane seats are required to be able to withstand impacts 16 times the force of gravity in a crash, and safety standards like these are widely credited with making plane crashes far more survivable than they used to be. Given that your seat is the one padded thing between your butt and the ground you’re crashing into, you want it to be in its sturdiest position. When the seat isn’t secured in its upright position, you also can’t get into a proper brace position, which the FAA says is three times safer than staying sitting up during a crash.

Plus, putting seats in the upright position makes it significantly easier for the window and middle-seat passengers to exit the row in an emergency. New airplane models have to undergo a mock emergency evacuation before they're cleared to fly to prove that all passengers can get out in 90 seconds or less. It’s much harder to slither out into the aisle if the seats in front of you are reclined and blocking the path. This 90-second requirement has prompted some to question whether planes can still be evacuated quickly enough as legroom shrinks—in 2016, a Tennessee senator unsuccessfully proposed a law to establish a minimum seat pitch on planes (meaning the distance between a seat and the one behind it) on the grounds that there haven’t been safety tests on seats with a pitch of less than 29 inches. Most U.S. planes have a 31-inch pitch, but some, like those used by Spirit Airlines, are even more cramped.

Keeping seats upright during takeoff also makes the plane windows more visible to flight attendants, so that in the event of a crash, they can see out the window to assess whether there’s a fire or another hazard outside the plane. They need to be able to see quickly whether one wing is on fire, say, so that they can direct passengers to exit elsewhere.

Sure, the upright plane seat isn’t terribly comfortable, but those few inches really could save your life.

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What's the Difference Between Memorial Day and Veterans Day?

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iStock/flySnow

It may not be easy for some people to admit, but certain national holidays often get a little muddled—namely, Memorial Day and Veterans Day. In fact, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs sees the confusion often enough that they spelled out the distinction on their website. The two days are held six months apart: Veterans Day is celebrated every November 11, and Memorial Day takes place on the last Monday of May as part of a three-day weekend with parades and plenty of retail sales promotions. You probably realize both are intended to acknowledge the contributions of those who have served in the United States military, but you may not recall the important distinction between the two. So what's the difference?

Veterans Day was originally known as Armistice Day. It was first observed on November 11, 1919, the one-year anniversary of the end of World War I. Congress passed a resolution making it an annual observance in 1926. It became a national holiday in 1938. In 1954, President Dwight D. Eisenhower changed the name from Armistice Day to Veterans Day to recognize veterans of the two world wars. The intention is to celebrate all military veterans, living or dead, who have served the country, with an emphasis on thanking those in our lives who have spent time in uniform.

We also celebrate military veterans on Memorial Day, but the mood is more somber. The occasion is reserved for those who died while serving their country. The day was first observed in the wake of the Civil War, where local communities organized tributes around the gravesites of fallen soldiers. The observation was originally called Decoration Day because the graves were adorned with flowers. It was held May 30 because that date wasn't the anniversary for any battle in particular and all soldiers could be honored. (The date was recognized by northern states, with southern states choosing different days.) After World War I, the day shifted from remembering the fallen in the Civil War to those who had perished in all of America's conflicts. It gradually became known as Memorial Day and was declared a federal holiday and moved to the last Monday in May to organize a three-day weekend beginning in 1971.

The easiest way to think of the two holidays is to consider Veterans Day a time to shake the hand of a veteran who stood up for our freedoms. Memorial Day is a time to remember and honor those who are no longer around to receive your gratitude personally.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, send it to bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

What Is the Kitchen Like on the International Space Station?

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iStock/Elen11

Clayton C. Anderson:

The International Space Station (ISS) does not really have a "kitchen" as many of us here on Earth might relate to. But, there is an area called the "galley" which serves the purpose of allowing for food preparation and consumption. I believe the term "galley" comes from the military, and it was used specifically in the space shuttle program. I guess it carried over to the ISS.

The Russian segment had the ONLY galley when I flew in 2007. There was a table for three, and the galley consisted of a water system—allowing us to hydrate our food packages (as needed) with warm (tepid) or hot (extremely) water—and a food warmer. The food warmer designed by the Russians was strictly used for their cans of food (about the size of a can of cat food in America). The U.S. developed a second food warmer (shaped like a briefcase) that we could use to heat the more "flexibly packaged" foodstuffs (packets) sent from America.

Later in the ISS lifetime, a second galley area was provided in the U.S. segment. It is positioned in Node 1 (Unity) and a table is also available there for the astronauts' dining pleasures. Apparently, it was added because of the increasing crew size experienced these days (6), to have more options. During my brief visit to ISS in 2010 (12 days or so) as a Discovery crewmember, I found the mealtimes to be much more segregated than when I spent five months on board. The Russians ate in the Russian segment. The shuttle astronauts ate in the shuttle. The U.S. ISS astronauts ate in Node 1, but often at totally different times. While we did have a combined dinner in Node 1 during STS-131 (with the Expedition 23 crew), this is one of the perceived negatives of the "multiple-galley" scenario. My long duration stint on ISS was highlighted by the fact that Fyodor Yurchikhin, Oleg Kotov, and I had every single meal together. The fellowship we—or at least I—experienced during those meals is something I will never, ever forget. We laughed, we argued, we celebrated, we mourned …, all around our zero-gravity "dinner table." Awesome stuff!

This post originally appeared on Quora. Click here to view.

Clayton "Astro Clay" Anderson is an astronaut, motivational speaker, author, and STEAM education advocate.

His award-winning book The Ordinary Spaceman, Astronaut Edition Fisher Space Pen, and new children's books A is for Astronaut; Blasting Through the Alphabet and It's a Question of Space: An Ordinary Astronaut's Answers to Sometimes Extraordinary Questions are available at www.AstroClay.com. For speaking events www.AstronautClayAnderson.com. Follow @Astro_Clay #WeBelieveInAstronauts

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