5 Airplane Mysteries You Didn’t Know You Wanted To Know

Posted by at 16:39

Ever wondered if a plane can taxi backwards? Or if the cockpit windows can open? Well, to be honest, I haven’t either. But luckily, we’ve got super curious passengers that ask us all kinds of fun questions. Time to find the answers to five aircraft mysteries you and I were wondering about!

Hey KLM, can a plane taxi backwards under its own power?

Airplane mystery number one! I’ve spotted this question a few times. Can a plane drive backwards on its own, for instance, during taxiing? Interesting question, right? Most aircraft can drive backwards using their reverse thrust. On jet aircraft, this is done using thrust devices that block the blast and redirect it forward. There are some ways to achieve this, but as I didn’t study engines, so let’s leave it at that, thanks. ;)

F100 reverse thrust KLM

At some airports in the US and in the military, using reverse thrust during taxiing is still a common practice.  However, we do not use reverse thrust for taxiing due to environmental considerations (fuel, loads of fuel) and we’d like to minimise noise pollution (noisy engines are noisy). A so called “powerback” wears on the engines and the reverse propulsion sucks all kinds of things directly into the engine’s combustion chamber, which is not ideal. Plus, I think the crew on the tarmac also appreciates not being blown away. So that’s why we use the push-back procedure with awesome tug drivers like Harrie en Heino. Oh, and there’s also no rear-view mirror and reverse beeping sound of course. ;) Beep beep beep!

737 KLM tug

Wipers? On an airplane?

“Hi KLM Random question, but why do the cockpit windows have wipers and why do the windows open?”

Cockpit windshields have wipers for obvious reason – they wipe away water or snow! As pilots need a clear view, the wipers clear the windshield of water in case the airflow doesn’t do this during takeoff or landing. I can imagine the wipers are extra handy during happy events where aircraft are welcomed by fire trucks, blasting (sometimes coloured) water on the plane during taxiing. The wipers can move independently, to reduce the chance that both wiper systems will be down simultaneously. On a Boeing 737, the wipers have three settings: interval (6/7 sweeps a minute), low (160 sweeps) and high (250 sweeps). Non-functioning wipers can be the reason for a “no-go” when heavy rain is expected during take-off or landing, so they’re essential!

By the way, most aircraft nowadays have a hydrophobic (“scared of water”) coating on their windows. This coating is as afraid of water as I am of clowns. Just… no. The coating affects the surface tension of raindrops and creates a kind of see-through film on the windscreen which is super beneficial for the pilots’ ability to see.

Wipers KLM airplane

Hey cap, open the window!

Not every window in the cockpit can open. For example, in a Boeing 737 only two of the six windows can slide backwards. The fact that they can open is mainly to serve as an escape route for the pilots if the usual access door can’t be used. That’s why an escape strap is also mounted above these windows. The open window also allows communication with platform staff. Oh and of course, it allows for a breath of fresh air (uhm, not at 10,000 feet, of course!). So basically, it’s handy for ground operations. The windows are locked securely, so you don’t have to worry about them opening when they shouldn’t. 

Seat ABC, easy as 1-2-3?

Have you ever had a good look at the KLM seat plans? They look pretty logical, right? A passenger wondered why there was no seat B in some of our planes. This is indeed the case in some of our smaller aircraft with two rows of two seats. For instance, in the Fokker 70 and Embraer 190 or in some Business Class cabins, you’ve got seat A and C and D and F only. This is done (not only at KLM but pretty much worldwide) as seat A is recognizable as a window seat and C as an aisle seat, especially for frequent flyers who know cabin layouts by heart. I’ve also never spotted a seat I (I as in India), probably because seat 11I would be a bit confusing for people and computers, wouldn’t it?

KLM Embraer Seatmap

The mysterious row 13

Now find row 13 in any of the seat maps. Don’t hold your breath though, as we don’t have a row 13 in any of our airplanes. So if you see seat 13B on your boarding pass for your flight in an Embraer 190, you’ve got a bit of an issue. What happened to row 13? Some people have a pretty negative association with that number so we decided to just skip it. Black cats are allowed on board though. Don’t worry.

 

44 Responses to 5 Airplane Mysteries You Didn’t Know You Wanted To Know

  1. Hendrik

    Wow, I like this mysteries.
    They are very interesting.
    Now I know some things I didn’t know.

    Thanks!

    • Renée

      Happy to read that, Hendrik! Thank you for reading.

  2. JO van DEIJZEN

    Like that. Some questions I did know the answer. Except row 13.
    Thank you. Cheers and Happy landings.
    JO.

    • Renée

      Oh..the mysterious row 13. :) Thanks Jo!

  3. Mike

    Interesting. I always read aircraft can never move backwards. Didn’t know about Row 13. I was born on Friday the 13th..

    • Renée

      Uh so then 13 is a pretty great number, right Mike? :D

  4. Rene van Summeren

    Thankyou, very informative

    • Renée

      Thank you very much, Rene!

  5. Eric JF Kleijssen

    I also noticed there is no 13th window in the 777 (flew a couple of times seated in seat 5 world business class and noticed the missing 13th window )

  6. Ross McKinnon

    ThanK you for these interesting snippets of information. Always read with interest.

    • Renée

      That’s great to hear, Ross! Thanks and enjoy!

  7. Micky

    Thanks for the education (and also funny!!) post :)

  8. Sigrid Hawkinson

    Thanks for all your little insights. Love your airline!! Will see you in about a month. Coning from the US and going to Bremen Germany☺

    • Renée

      Sigrid! Thank you. Have a great flight, we’ll see you on board!

  9. Andrew

    Many years ago on a Continental 737 I was flying we aborted takeoff right before rotation as the pilot’s window opened up. The pilot announced “Do Not Evac!” as the flight crew were about to pull the escape slides. We were told the window was not properly closed. Thankfully those Windows, and all doors are held in place by the difference in cabin and exterior pressure. At altitude. However, it was not a fun experience.

    • Renée

      I can only imagine, Andrew, that must have been scary. Thank you for sharing.

  10. Martin Herrera

    Compleating about this 5 misterys the open window olso i used for wipe and clean all 6 glases whith specific cleaner spray…
    The 757
    737boings and
    Airbus319,320.. I realy miss doing this for 7 years
    On sna airport….
    If you klm have a opening for mi letmy tray it please …missing too the push back whit reversed pus-tractor only my manager and my self didit this ways. Love it.

    • Renée

      7 years, wow! That sounds cool, Martin. I wish you all the best with the job hunt.

  11. Tiwalola

    Thanks for some answering questions I’d been curious about!
    Here’s another please: Why are we mandated to close and open our window hatches at specific times during flights?

    • Steef van den Berg

      Although of the fact that there are only few airlines with no row 13, you will miss also row 4 on Korean Airlines

    • Renée

      That’s a security measure, Tiwalola. The crew needs to be able to see outside during take-off and landing in the very unlikely case something should happen with, for example, an engine. Maybe I can use this question someday in another blog? Thank you!

  12. EMUAKPEJEKESSENA

    hi

  13. EMUAKPEJEKESSENA

    hi EMUAKPEJEKKESSENA

  14. Dan Hall

    I find this very interesting. In some other airlines, they do have a row 13, on the 737 right behind the window exit. Also I heard that on the 787 and Airbus A380 the flight deck Windows don’t open at all!?

    • Renée Penris

      Hi Dan! I wasn’t sure, as we don’t have a A380 in our fleet, but Google showed some pilots waving out of the window of an A380. So those windows do open! As for the Dreamliner, I believe these windows can’t be opened. Thanks!

  15. Philip

    Just wondering, do KLM Asia planes have a row 4? (4 being considered an unlucky number in certain Asian civilizations)

    • Alain

      Yes there is a row 4 on KLM Asia. Part of business class on 772 and 773. Even if it is considered unlucky number mostly by Chinese community, all seats are very safe on KLM. And their business class service is top notch. So no worries.and enjoy the flight!

    • Renée Penris

      Hello Philip. Most aircraft in the KLM Asia fleet are Boeing 777’s and they indeed all have a row 4. :)

  16. Jorge Rojas

    !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!……………..amazing

    • Renée Penris

      Jorge, thanks!

  17. Joseph B. Cassidy, III

    Glad to see your blog is back. Actually, I though something happened, and your blogs went to my junk folder, but I was never able to find them there, either. But now I know better. Still, I’m glad that you are back to posting again.
    I didn’t know that aircraft could go backwards on their own. The reasons you stated, make perfect sense. Especially the blast, and noise points. Still, it was something that I was not made aware of. Good to know. Thanks.

    • Renée Penris

      Thanks so much, Joseph! :D Recently, we indeed activated the Blog alert again, so I’m glad to read you’re back on our blog. Happy reading!

  18. Alain

    Yes there is a row 4 on KLM Asia, in business class for the 772 and 773. But don’t worry with KLM all rows are safe.

  19. h.degen

    i still don’t understand why B is not used as a seat number.

  20. h.degen

    i read it again and i do understand it now. bit late, sorry.

    • Renée Penris

      No worries! :)

  21. Juan Carlos Flores Velasco

    Es la mejor aerolínea del mundo y de América Latina ya que tiene la mejor flota y sobre todo el Aeropuerto de Ámsterdam

    • Renée Penris

      Ah gracias, Juan Carlos!

  22. Lotta Rygaard walsh

    Very interesting reading… I’ve been to planes with a row 13, in fact I was in 13 a and I held my breath ( well ) almost the whole trip!
    I really liked one of the reasons to why you can slide back some of the windows… escape route for the pilots! In that case, I sure hope he or she is skinny enough

    Thanks anyway for all the information and the fun way of writing …I got quite some laughs although I’m scared shit of flying…(flying to Bangkok on Thursday )

    • Renée Penris

      Lotta! Glad to read you decided to read my blog despite your fear of flying. :D Kuddos to you! Thank you for the nice compliments too. Have you read our 3 blogs on overcoming fear of flying? Maybe those will help you some more so you can fly a little bit more comfortably on your flight Thursday. Here it is: https://blog.klm.com/overcoming-fear-of-flying-part-1/ Thank you!

  23. Helen King

    Hi I am hoping you can tell me how to find blogs 2&3?. I have serious fear issues and haven’t flown for years but have flights booked for September to Nuremberg and back from Stuttgart so 4 flights in all! My fear is to do with being enclosed and I’m terrified that I’m going to take a major panic attack when the doors close and try to get off the plane. I start to cry even when I think about it and it’s 8 weeks away!! I’ve tried to get help here in the UK but I can’t find anything. I would like to read the other blogs as I found the first one quite useful and have downloaded the Valk app. Do you have any other suggestions? Thank you

  24. Backwards Ralf

    My question: Do/can planes land themselves? I have been told yes and no.

    • Renée Penris

      Hi Ralf, there is indeed a system referred to as ‘autoland’, which is especially convenient in bad weather, for example when there’s low visibility. The plane can steer itself, but there are still things an actual pilot has to do. For example: deploy the flaps and landing gear and they have to make all kinds of selections. The system can also only be used within certain restrictions too. When there’s too much crosswind, a pilot has to land manually. It’s pretty cool though, don’t you think? Thanks Ralf!

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