They’re big, they’re powerful, and they are built to fly seamlessly even in relatively harsh conditions. These are mostly known truths about aircraft, but there are lots of other facts that make them even more fascinating.

I have recently caught up with Captain Nigel Webster who, with a whopping 44 years of flying experience behind him, knows a thing or two (or a 1,000) about aircraft and has given me some really interesting facts to share with you today. Enjoy!

  • The navigation system on the Airbus and other modern jets is descended from a design for the Apollo space programme.
  • The electronic terrain clearance map on the Airbus and other modern jets was originally designed for cruise missiles.
  • We can send a text message from the aircraft in the air. (Operational use only!)

cockpit - flying_foxoir

Credit: Flying_Foxoir (Instagram)

  • We can ring any telephone number in the world from the aircraft in the air. (Operational use only!)
  • On Airbus and other European aircraft, a switch is ‘on’ when it is down. On Boeings and other US aircraft, it is ‘on’ when it is up.
  • There is no Row 13 in our aircraft cabins.
  • The aircraft paperwork is called the Ship’s Papers.Rob Kooyman - Tenerife mount Teide in the background

Credit: Captain Robert Kooyman

  • The cockpit side windows are called the windscreens, but the front windows are called the windshields.
  • When making a tight turn on the ground, one of the two nose wheel tyres comes off the ground.
  • The strobe lights on the wing tips of an Airbus make a double flash. On a Boeing they make a single flash.
  • When you flush the toilet on the Airbus and other modern jets, you are opening a hole in the pressure hull (into the unpressurised part of the aircraft, not overboard!)
  • When we make a tight turn on the runway, the pilot will be over the grass when the turn is started.
  • From the flight deck we can see only the wingtips, not the engines.

Credit to beckettalex1

Credit: beckettal1 (Instagram)

  • When the main wheels touch down, the A321 pilot is still 21ft above the runway.
  • Airbus pilots have a folding table in front of them. (Boeing pilots do not.)
  • A full fuel load on our A321s is up to 26,700 litres.
  • All the essential flying and system information is supplied to the two pilots on a total of six screens.
  • The three hydraulic systems on an Airbus 320/321 are named after colours – green, yellow, blue.
  • There are over 200 computers in an Airbus A320.

sunset on way to ALC - flying_foxoir

Credit: Flying_Foxoir (Instagram)

  • On descending to land a synthetic (male) voice calls out our height above the ground.

And here you go, 20 juicy facts about aircraft! Did you know any of them? What surprised you the most? let us know in the comments below!


Big thanks to First Officer Tim Hearn (_timhearn on Instagram) for the fantastic shot featured as our main image

Naomi is the Social Media and Content Executive at Monarch and is a regular contributor to the Monarch blog. She is a big lover of Northern European countries and is very excited for the launch of one of Monarch's newest routes, Stockholm!


  1. I knew none of the facts, but loved reading them All I,m bothered about is being in safe hands (nervous flier) flew with Monarch in January to Malaga had a great flight lovely crew but 3 hour delay coming home built up my anx levels lol xx

  2. Not quite true about European aircraft switches being down for on. I can guarantee that up is on on the panavia tornado. Interesting read though, thanks

  3. Interesting article, but what’s the non sense about row 13 ? If the plane is going down, it’s going down whatever row you are sitting in !

  4. Surprised no mention of the “male” alt announcement voice calling the airbus pilots retards on landing.

  5. interesting, in the 80s before 9/11, I was lucky to be aloud into the cockpit of most of the jets of the day , to sit at the controls, I am deeply in debt to the pilots on the day, looking out over Italy at the weather up ahead, amazing to say the least, and then some silly bugger ruined it for me.. to old now to train but I know given a chance what I would have done for a living.

  6. My six year old granddaughter, who wants to be a pilot, desperately wants to know why she had to put her window blind down when she came in to land during darkness.

    • Hi John, your granddaughter has an excellent question! Our former cabin crew (now pilot) Ben Jones addressed the question in his blog, you can read it here. Hope that will answer her question, feel free to get in touch with more any time!

  7. Lovely to see more things I didn’t know about planes. Americans say that up for on is safer because if you accidentally brush against a switch it is more likely to go down (off) than up, but very confusing for the rest of us. Next time, why do A320s make a chug-chug noise from underneath on start up?

  8. Always travel with Monarch we have just returned from Tenerife and the flight out and back was excellent cant fault you but we were a bit worried about getting back but glad to see that has been sorted.
    I will be booking our flight back to Tenerife for January later this month.
    Thanks for a excellent service.
    Steve Smith.

    • Thank you for your lovely comment Stephen, glad you had a good flight and thank you for choosing Monarch! Looking forward to seeing you onboard again in January 🙂

  9. I thought that you had ordered the 737X according to the In-Flight magazine we read on the October flight to Spain —–without,— tables for the crew,– double flashes for nav lights,—“logical” switch convention,— or are they optional extras!
    Thanks for info always interesting!
    Best ,

  10. Really interesting!!
    Personally only knew one of these facts!…….. unbelievable that there are over 200 computers, I struggle to use one!!
    Loved the pictures of the controls on the flight desk, would so love to spend a flight “up front” as it were…..Thank you Monarch!

  11. Great blog. I thought it was interesting, didn’t ever think about row 13 despite flying regularly, though I expect it is for superstitious passengers. Flew light aircraft years ago, didn’t know about trobe light on Airbus versus Boeing.
    And….great airline Monarch to, you have good team with wonderful staff.

  12. the technical facts did not surprise me at all, very complicated but I had a chuckle at no row 13 ! I fly at least twice a year with Monarch and never new that .

  13. Didn’t realise that the strobe lights on the wingtips would be different and not the same for all manufacturers. Also had never noticed you do not have a row 13 – as I always prefer to sit at the back have never checked the rows when going past. I know not all airlines do this as a friend is flying another airline to Spain next year and cannot believe her other half, with a choice of seats, has chosen row 13 (I am with her on that!)

  14. I knew all that having worked on A300 A320 A340 A330 good information thou for Joe Public !! Monarch had an excellent maintenance, good work

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