A secret: third engine on an airplane

Commercial aircraft usually have two engines on each wing; bigger aircraft might have 4 engines. However, very few people know that each airplane has one, much smaller engine in the tail of the airplane, which ensures the smooth running of the plane. The engine is called the auxiliary power unit (APU). Even though it does not help to move the plane, it has several other functions - its main job is to provide the power that is necessary to start the main engine from the cockpit.

In addition, the APU has an electric generator, which creates power for the electronics of the airplane while it is parked at the gate. It can also be used as an emergency electrical power source while the airplane is in the air.

How long do airplanes last?

What is the average lifespan of a commercial airplane? To begin with, it is always determined by the manufacturer. Usually it is somewhere around 20 years, 51000 flight hours and 75000 pressurization cycles. These readings show the amount of time that the aircraft is kept under pressure during a flight. The fuselage (main body of the airplane) and wings suffer from stress during pressurization, which wears the metal out and generates cracks in them overtime. These are the main determinants in the lifespan of an airplane.

The fastest commercial aircraft

Did you know that one time there was a commercial airplane that could fly from New York to London in under 3 hours? It was called Concorde and was in service from 1976 to 2003. It is considered one of only two supersonic transports to have ever been operated commercially.

Its maximum speed was twice the speed of sound with a cruise speed of 2180 km/h, while nowadays, modern commercial aircraft cruise at around 900 km/h.

The Concorde had seating for 92 to 128 passengers with an average round trip ticket price from New York to London of nearly €12,000, meaning only the wealthiest could afford to fly with it.

You might ask why did it stop flying and why do not we have something like this today. Well, there were several reasons, but limited flight routes, high maintenance costs and falling sales of tickets were the main factors behind the retirement of the Concorde.

Bad weather cooperating with flights

While bad weather is usually not good for airplanes as it makes take-offs, landings and being airborne more difficult and more dangerous, sometimes they benefit the flights.

On February 10th 2020, three aircraft broke flying records for subsonic flights, getting from New York to London in under 5 hours, when the previous record was over 5 hours. The reason for this was Storm Ciara causing extreme tailwinds, thus speeding up the plane towards the United Kingdom. It was reported that the winds reached over 300 km/h, allowing the plane to reach a top speed of almost 1300 km/h.

Airplanes and aviation trigger people’s interest even when they have nothing in common with the industry. Unfortunately, many of them often stay away from it thinking that it is too complicated to and they would need a lot of time to understand it. However, these facts show that anyone can have a good time discovering new things about aviation without having any background in it. Many facts and explanations do not require you to have knowledge in engineering a science. So, do not limit yourself, dive in and explore the world of aviation!