Good morning, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome on board Everything2 node 1385272. Please direct your attention to the noder at the top of this writeup, who will explain the safety features of your aircraft.

If you've ever been on an airline in the last fifty years, you've probably heard a similar spiel before every takeoff. It invariably starts with the following line:

Please make sure your seat belts are fastened. Insert the metal fitting into the buckle, then pull on the loose end to tighten the belt...

Big deal. You know how to fasten a seat belt.

There's a reason, however, that the friendly flight attendant in the aisle is gesturing wildly with a moebius-like seat belt. At any time during flight, a burst of clear air turbulence, or perhaps evasive action against an errant SAM, might hit the airplane, and cause anyone who isn't strapped down to bash their skulls against the No Smoking signs. So buckle your seatbelt, cowboy, and pay attention. This is not the time to bury your face behind page 3.

Federal law prohibits smoking in airplane lavatories. Smoking in the lavatories or tampering with the smoke detector may result in a fine.

Why?! you ask. Simple: the lavatory happens to contain concentrated amounts of toilet paper and napkins that aren't flame retardant. Inadvertently setting them on fire would be a Bad Thing, so the Federal Aviation Administration placed a law into effect banning smoking in the lav.

This aircraft has X clearly marked exit doors, X on each side of the airplane. If you are seated in an exit row, please read the emergency briefing card in the seat pocket in front of you and familiarize yourself with its operation...

Contrary to urban legend and a host of cartoons, it is impossible to open the door on a pressurized aircraft while it is in flight, because the differential in the air pressure of the cabin and the outside will effectively seal the door shut. However:

In the event of a change in cabin pressure, the oxygen mask compartment above your seat will open automatically.

...And more than likely scare the living shit out of you. When all the masks on an aircraft come down at once, mechanics like to call it the "rubber jungle." This actually sometimes happens by accident while the aircraft is on the ground, usually because a preoccupied pilot flips the wrong test switch: if that happens, each of the few hundred masks on the aircraft have to be pulled back into the ceiling and battened down, one by one.

If the aircraft actually does lose cabin pressure and trigger the masks, you're supposed to grab the closest mask to you, give it a good yank, and strap it to your nose and mouth. The yank is to activate the oxygen bottle: if you don't pull on the mask to get the oxygen flowing, you'll probably wish you had well after you pass out.

Before I forget, once the aircraft is unpressurized, you can open the door. But don't, unless you're carrying a parachute.

After putting on your own mask, make sure that children's masks fit tightly to their faces.

Each three-seat row on an airplane is equipped with four masks: three big people masks, and one little people mask.

In the event of a water landing...

Also known as a crash. Airlines don't like to get into detail about exactly what you're supposed to do in the event the aircraft runs aground or adrift in the wrong place, assuming that if something really bad happens, the flight attendants will be able to explain everything amid the chaos. Here's a basic primer of what you're supposed to do (most of which is printed in that seat pocket card you've never seriously digested).

First of all, if the aircraft is in an uncontrolled descent, bend over and put your head between your legs (or put your forehead against the seat in front of you), and cover your head with your hands. Aircraft are full of pieces of potential shrapnel, and you want to make the whiplash effects as minor as possible.

After the aircraft impacts, every door on the aircraft will suddenly sprout a big inflatable rubber evacuation slide. You have to go down the slide shoeless: shoes will slow you down at best, and possibly break the slide at worst. Don't bring your briefcase: hopefully, your boss will understand.

If the aircraft goes down at sea, there are several more considerations. Virtually every aircraft has life vests for each passenger, or at the very least, buoyant seat cushions. I won't argue with George Carlin's assertion that the last thing you'll want after a crash is to be floating around the ocean on a pillow full of beer farts, so grab a vest if you can. If you do get a vest, don't inflate it inside the airplane! The reason for this won't become apparent until you try to squeeze out the door with a bunch of other idiots who have already inflated their life vests.

Most overwater aircraft have some type of life rafts on board. On newer widebody planes, the emergency slides can be detached from the fuselage and used as rafts: on older planes, however, you'll have to make like Tom Hanks in Cast Away and grab the nearest life raft you can find. Usually, these will be in an overhead bin not far from the flight attendants' station.

Hopefully, you will never need to know anything about these points. Here are some less deadly, but potentially confusing points:

Cellular phones, radios, and two-way pagers may not be used at any time.

The official reason for this is that they interfere with the aircraft's navigational systems. This is bullshit: September 11, 2001 proved that people can use cell phones on planes without messing anything up. The real reason you can't use your phone on an airplane is because the airplane already has a satellite phone system that costs $5 a minute, and if everyone used their cell phones, nobody would use the airphones. Go ahead and talk, but don't let the flight attendant see you... and be aware that transmitter switching at 500 miles an hour will probably wear out your battery fairly quickly.

Once the aircraft passes through 10,000 feet, you may use authorized electronic devices.

This is because almost every airplane crash happens below 10,000 feet. Why? Because that's when the airplane is closest to the ground, silly. If everyone was playing solitaire and listening to Wesley Willis MP3's as an aircraft crashed, nobody would get out alive.

Incidentally, this is also why you are told to put your seat back straight up, stow your tray table, etc.

Please remain in your seat with your seat belt fastened until the captain has turned off the Fasten Seat Belts sign.

As an aircraft approaches the gate, it has to line up with markings on the ground in order to be in the right position to meet the jetway at the door. If the pilot overshoots while everyone is standing up and getting their stuff out of the bins (reminder: articles may have shifted during flight), he has to back up, and all the impatient passengers fall on each other like salarymen in Japanese trains.

Hopefully, this will make your air travel experience a safer and more enjoyable one. Thank you for noding on Everything2.

thanks to evilrooster for suggestions

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