The hidden plane features you didn’t know about including horns, pedals and the ‘William Shatner seat’ | The Sun

SECRET features and functions on planes have been revealed, which can improve your experience of flying.

Some are hidden away and only to be used by the pilot or the flight crew, however others are there for the passengers' convenience.

Be it a secret button that gives you more legroom in your chair, or a hidden handrail to grip onto while walking down the aisle, there's plenty more to a plane than first meets the eye.


You might not expect it but planes, like cars, also have horns, which pilots can sound any time the aircraft is on the ground.

According to KLM: "The horn is primarily a means of communication, but the aircraft can also emit a signal to warn engineers when a system breaks down or when there is fire.

"A pilot can’t hoot at other aircraft. In fact, the horn doesn’t work when the aircraft is in flight, because the signalling system is turned off."

One pilot was forced to use the horn on their plane to shoo away a flamingo that wouldn't get off the runway.


Anyone who's seen a cockpit will know that they're full of buttons and levers, but there are also two pedals used to steer the aircraft as well, according to a British Airways pilot.

First Officer Helen Geering told Sun Online travel: "When we're on the ground and taking off, we control it with our feet – two pedals for left and right.
"There are even brakes in the pedals."

The secret armrest button

On some planes, the armrest next to the aisle may appear to be an immovable object, preventing passengers from stretching their legs out into the aisle.

However, if you search underneath the armrest, towards the back you will be rewarded with a button.

Press it and you are able to move the armrest so it’s flush with the back of your seat to gain precious extra room to spread out into.

The button also makes it much easier to get up from your seat, or to let the middle and window passengers get to their seats.

The black triangle

While the windows on the plane offer breath-taking views of the world as you fly overhead, they are also part of the plane’s safety features.

The easiest way to check up on a wing mid-flight is to simply look out the window.

The best place to assess the airworthiness of the wing is marked by an innocuous-looking black triangle.

Retired aerospace engineer Lee Ballentine wrote on website Quora: "The black triangle marks the location of what has been called the ‘William Shatner Seat’, or the seat with the clearest view of the wing.

"The Shatner reference is to one of the strangest Twilight Zone episodes, 'Nightmare at 20,000 Feet'. In it, Shatner’s character sees a gremlin on the wing of the plane he’s a passenger on."

The emergency toilet latch

The toilets on the plane are secure and can be locked from the inside, but in the event of an emergency, cabin crew can access occupied loos by using a small button.

A hidden latch, often put behind the no smoking sign, allows crew to access the toilets in an emergency.

Handcuffs, defibrillators and handguns

Flight attendants aren't only responsible for handing out drinks, they're also there to keep everyone on board the plane as safe and well as they can.

They're trained and prepared for a number of eventualities, including when passengers start to get a bit unruly.

Those passengers could find themselves in cuffs and being handed over to airport police, with cable ties now commonplace in the cabin crew's inventory.

Some airlines come prepared with heavier duty hardware too.

Since 9/11, sky marshals on flights to and from the US have been permitted to carry concealed weapons on planes – they function as undercover armed escorts, ready to leap into action should the need arise.

However, the identity of the armed marshal is kept a secret from even the cabin crew.

In August 2018, a United Airlines steward caught a glimpse of a marshal’s gun, which caused an emergency landing — with the marshal arrested, mistaken for a rogue passenger with a weapon.

Additionally, a defibrillator is also found on most aircraft, to be used if any passenger suffers a cardiac arrest.

The bleed hole

In the middle of the triple-glazed reinforced aeroplane windows, there is often a hole.

Because cabins are pressurised, the aircraft needs a safety valve to ease some of the immense load heaped on aircraft windows.

The hole you see is only there to take pressure off the inner pane of glass.

Chemistry sets

On every flight, swirling above your head is a cocktail of chemicals ready for action, in case of an emergency.

Should the cabin depressurise and the yellow face masks drop into your lap, you won’t have much time to think about the details. But it’s an incredibly complicated process.

It wouldn’t be space or weight-efficient to provide every passenger with an aqualung. Instead, there is a mixture of barium peroxide, sodium chlorate and potassium chlorate — powders and liquids that react violently together to rapidly produce oxygen.

The secret bedroom

Have you ever wondered where the crew go to get away from the passengers?

Most long-haul aircraft are designed with crew compartments for attendants to nap and take a break.

Many are temperature controlled and the crew can even adjust lighting in case one want to sleep while another stays up to read.

Grab handles on the emergency exit

The large handle on the emergency door might be considered over-engineered, but this is a “calming measure”.

Evacuating passengers tend to be a bit panicky, so providing a handle to hold onto can slow down the escape, which also helps to maintain an orderly queue for the emergency slides.

It’s also something for attendants to hold on to, to avoid being barged out of the way.

The hand rail

If you need to walk down the cabin without grabbing the backs of sleeping passengers headrests, there is a more considerate way.

Along the skirting of the overhead bins, there is sometimes a handrail moulded into the fuselage.

You can hold on to this for support as you make your way down the aisle.


Since the ban of smoking on most airlines, why new planes still have ashtrays built in is a mystery to most passengers.

But health and safety regulations stipulate that there must be a safe place to stub out a cigarette mid-flight, in case someone sparks up illegally.

Should someone ignore the rules – and they still do – it’s better to have the trays in the bathrooms than have smoking embers disposed of in the bin.

Yellow wing hooks

Hopefully you will never have to make use of these curious little features.

However, in the event of landing on water, these hooks on the wing are rudimentary handholds.

As in Captain Sully’s “Miracle on the Hudson”, rope can be attached to the hooks for easier escape by passengers over the wing.



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Gas masks

Flight attendants are issued with gas masks.

Instead of those restrictive yellow masks on strings that passengers get, gas masks free them up to move through the aircraft and address any problems.

It's not the only secret regarding your flight – your airline ticket could be revealing more than you may realise.

A version of this story originally appeared on the NZ Herald and was republished with permission.

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