Air safety features include RATS, secret bedroom, bleed hole

Nervous flyers need all the reassurance they can get. Good thing it is in the interests of aircraft manufacturers to make our flights as safe as possible. And they’re good at it – witness these safety features hidden in plain sight. Keep reading, it gets weird …

Since 1984, seats have been fireproofed. Business Insider tells us this is because NASA carried out research to safeguard its capsules after three deaths in a fire during a 1967 Apollo mission. Your seat cushion also acts as a floatation device in case you experience an unlikely splashdown.


Smoking is banned on flights, right? But ashtrays are maintained in bathrooms because desperate smokers are known to sneak a cigarette in lavatories and waste bins contain flammable materials. In 2009, a British Airways flight was grounded when it was found not to have ashtrays.


The Ram Air Turbine (RAT) is a small turbine used as a back-up power alternate emergency hydraulic or electrical power source if an emergency affects main supplies. “A propeller-like turbine, which is stowed in a compartment in the fuselage or wing, drops down beneath the plane and generates power from the airstream while being connected to an electrical generator or hydraulic pump,” says aviation expert Fred Parham. The RAT also powers vital navigation instrumentation and flight controls, enabling a pilot to safely land a stricken plane.

The Bleed Hole

Why do they need a place to drain blood? Well, this colourfully named item is that disconcerting hole you can notice in triple-glazed plane windows. Because aircraft cabins are pressurised, the plane needs a safety valve to take the pressure off the inner pane of glass.

The hidden handrail

Flight attendants walking the aisles touch the ceiling for good reason; the bottom of the overhead compartment has a “scalloped area” offering better grip. Next time you need to traverse the cabin up during a bout of turbulence, reach up to get balanced. 

Read more: What will it take for travel to restart?

The secret bedroom

Sure, it is important flight crew are alert. The Independent says most long-haul aircraft include crew compartments where flight attendants can snatch some slumber. And flight attendant Kat Kamalani told “there’s most likely flight attendants who are sleeping below you or above you” on such flights.

But you’ll be glad to know pilots are also kept well rested by using a secret bedroom, which is usually located behind the cockpit and above first class. These mini cabins contain a bed, and sometimes reclining seats, a bathroom and TV.

The William Shatner Seat

This is a little black or red triangle, which points out the windows that provide the best view of the wing to check for flap malfunctions and whether wings have been de-iced. It was nicknamed in honour of a famous 1963 episode of The Twilight Zone, in which William Shatner’s character Robert Wilson sees a gremlin on the wing of his plane. He seems to be the only passenger who can see the hideous creature, which starts driving him mad. Keith Phipps of Vulture called the episode “effective shorthand for fear of flying”.

Read more: Are double-decker seats the future of flying?

A horror show weapon

There’s an axe in the cockpit. Not to feed your paranoid fantasies of a vengeful, psychotic pilot, but in case of electrical fire. That’s the safest place to stash it. Many airlines have opted for a crowbar instead these days, to open panels to access troublesome wires, but that’s just not as effective an image to plant in your mind.

Rest assured, regulations forbid pilots charging into the passenger spaces with a deadly weapon. They aren’t allowed to leave the cockpit at all if there’s a disturbance in the cabin. That’s why there are …

Creepy Big Brother surveillance cameras

Many newer aircraft are outfitted with a Cabin Video Monitoring System (CVMS) in their cabins, says America’s ABC News.

“Positioned to cover the entire cabin, some cameras are visible, while others are hidden, but all of them feed images directly to the cockpit,” reports Pilots assess how serious an incident is by spying on passengers via video monitor. 

We hope this list assures you that the airborne powers that be are thinking hard about guaranteeing your plane gets up and down without mishap.

In the apocryphal words of the pilot who bid passengers farewell after landing: “The safest part of your trip is now over.”

Are you convinced by airline safety? What other security features would you like to see on planes?

Read more: Simple trick improves airline food

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Written by Will Brodie

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