Airplane travel is so common that we rarely think about what it takes to keep a plane up in the air, let alone the science of how we’re able to breathe safely and comfortably thousands of feet above ground. There’s a lot going on in and out of the plane that helps ensure a smooth and relaxing flight for you.
Case in point, the temperature outside the plane ranges from a freezing -55 degrees Celsius to -65 degrees Celsius. There’s also the damage that the lower air pressure outside the plane could do to your body. The plane deals with all of this through a system that ensures cabin pressure is at a suitable level for humans. At the same time, it makes sure the air we breathe is safe and at the right temperature.
First off, the plane maintains cabin pressure by working on an even split of external and internal air. Outside air comes in through compressors and is filtered so that we can breathe it safely. Meanwhile, air also leaves through return air grills located where the cabin meets the floor. This system ensures air is constantly flowing through the plane.
The plane also has filters that clean the air we breathe inside them. Ideally, the filters in modern aircraft are of the same quality used in operating rooms. Boeing’s 787 Dreamliners, for instance, even collaborated with the Technical University of Denmark to ensure their filters capture the majority of viruses and bacteria people bring on planes.
As for temperatures on the plane, the flight crew calibrates it depending on the number of people on the flight. Air on a plane also blows through the aisles first. This is because the flight crew are prone to feel warmer as they are constantly moving about. Additionally, the nozzles we have on the plane ensure that we can adjust the air that hits us while we’re on the plane.
These are three of the many complicated things that happen when you fly. So the next time you’re up in the air, take a moment to appreciate all the work that goes into making you safe and comfortable.
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