Plane Answers: 5 things to look for on your next flight

O.K., I’ll admit it. Flying has become a monotonous chore that few look forward to. As a frequent flyer, you’re probably more concerned about who you’re sitting next to than what you’re flying over.

But I always try to think about what Louis CK said on the Conan O’Brien show: “You’re sitting on a chair, IN THE SKY!”

If you still need something to break up the routineness of flying, try a few of these ideas:

Note the airplane type.

This is the least you could do. If only to be able to give an intelligent answer to the aviation geek picking you up at the airport. It’s always good to know what kind of airplane you’re flying on, including the series (-700, -300ER, etc.). What if they ground the entire fleet of A321s next week. You’ll be wondering just how close you cheated death on your last flight.
Look up the registration.

Commonly known as the “N” number in the United States, this can lead to some interesting information if you look it up in on Google before you depart.

You’ll likely discover when it first flew, but don’t be too shocked to find out the airplane is twenty years old. I’d probably be more concerned if it first entered service yesterday.

And you may or may not be interested in any NTSB reports detailing any incidents or accidents the aircraft has been through. For fun, look up N840TW, a 727 I flew for a charter airline years after it went supersonic. All easily discovered by ‘the Google.’

Visit the cockpit

We’ve had a few people come into the cockpit while boarding and mention how surprised they were that these visits weren’t prohibited. While trips to the cockpit inflight are prohibited, pilots still have the time for a five minute tour while at the gate if you’re interested. If nothing else, it might be nice to know who you’re trusting with your life. And you might even learn something.

Look under your seat

Airlines have gone to great lengths to install powerports under the seats in first class and the coach cabin. Unfortunately, most passengers have yet to discover them, since they’re not well marked.

Some airlines such as Continental use a proprietary empower plug while others have simple 110v outlets. American has 12v cigarette lighter plugs but they’re switching over to the 110v outlets.

I’d rather sit in a middle seat in coach with an iPhone loaded with movies than have a first class seat without my own entertainment. Targus makes a rather large inverter if you fly on a variety of different airlines.

Be sure to check before your flight to figure out which specific seats have power.

Count down the flight time

Most flight attendants will announce the flight time for your flight before you leave. Whenever you hear this, set your watch or smart phone’s countdown function with that time and be sure to start the timer just at liftoff. You’ll be surprised how often the timer finishes just as you’re touching down at your destination.

I can think of a few Northwest passengers who may be doing this from now on.

Hopefully some of these ideas help you pass the time on your next trip. Do you have any rituals you do before a long trip? Share them with us in the comments section.

Do you have a question about something related to the pointy end of an airplane? Ask Kent and maybe he’ll use it for the next Plane Answers. Check out his other blog, Cockpit Chronicles and travel along with him at work.