2525: Air Travel Packing List

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Air Travel Packing List
I know the etiquette is controversial, but I think it's rude when the person in front of me reclines their seat into the bell of my trumpet.
Title text: I know the etiquette is controversial, but I think it's rude when the person in front of me reclines their seat into the bell of my trumpet.


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This comic is about a proposed air-travel packing list, and the humor is that many people who have not been flying during Covid might have forgotten what to pack. Most of the items are already found on the plane, SOUND like they would be useful on a plane, or could be useful in (the unlikely event of) a plane crash. Here is a quick summary of each:

Item Explanation
Seat cushion This can be used as a flotation device in a crash and is provided by the airline. Some people may also bring their own cushions for comfort.
Parachute Parachutes are normally used to slow down your falling out of the sky to a relatively safe speed in case of a severe problem with your aircraft, and are routinely used as a safety device by (para)glider pilots, test pilots, military aircraft crew and in similar situations when being unable to land safely is a significant concern. A parachute won't be very useful in a typical passenger airplane (even a small one) as there is no way to safely exit such a plane in-flight. Even the airplanes used to voluntarily exit from while they're perfectly good (as some crazy people do) need to be specifically designed or modified for the purpose such as having wide sliding doors that are unaffected by airflow. However, there were single cases of people being ejected or sucked out of a passenger airplane; in such case a parachute could by arguably useful. Famously, D.B. Cooper jumped from an airplane in-flight with a parachute.
Wing glue Probably to repair wings in the event of damage, potentially in a crash. Would be tricky (but not necessarily impossible) to apply mid-flight.
Air horn An air horn uses compressed air to make a very loud noise very easily. This may be important for drawing attention to yourself in the event of a crash. Typically, emergency lifejackets on a plane are provided with a light and whistle for this purpose. The noise of an air horn might prove more effective for this purpose than a whistle, but it would become useless as soon as the compressed air ran out. Its inclusion is probably meant to suggest that the word 'air' in its name indicates that it's designed for use in an aircraft. Using one in a non-emergency situation would infuriate everyone else on the plane.
Sextant In combination with star charts, a sextant can be used to determine your position based on the location of stars in the night sky. Alternately, in combination with an accurate clock, a sextant can be used to determine the position of the sun relative to the aircraft to determine the vehicle's position. In a crash, you could use this to find your way to a safe place, but sextants are rarely used, and most people not trained on how to operate one. GPS will also allow you to find your position, is built into every phone, and is faster and easier to use than a sextant. If you've got a homing beacon, it probably makes more sense to just activate that and wait for help to arrive. Until the early 1980s, long-range airplanes had a flight navigator that used sextants and celestial navigation to determine the position of the airplane.
Nose plugs and goggles for pressure Nose plugs and goggles are commonly used in swimming but would be useless for dealing with cabin pressurization or depressurization. Since your mouth and nose are interconnected, nose plugs would be useless on their own. Trying to hold your breath in a sudden depressurization event will cause lung damage, so nose plugs wouldn't be a good thing, even if you could also seal off your mouth. Goggles would also not be useful. During depressurization, the air would just seep out. During pressurization, they would just become uncomfortable and difficult to remove.
Airplane shoes Airlines typically don't require use of special footwear for passengers, nor they provide special shoes. Depending on weather when entering/leaving plane this might be a good suggestion.
Navigation crystal Mystical form of navigation, presumably either to help with navigating airplane or to help you get home after a crash.

Crystals that polarize light can be used as a compass [1].

Spare batteries in case the plane runs out Airplanes will generally use more power than any battery small enough to be easily packed in a bag can provide. They will generally use either 115V AC at 400Hz or 28V DC, both of which are very uncommon outside of aviation. The plane will almost never use its own batteries in-flight anyway, getting its electric power from the main engines, the APU, or, in emergencies, the ram air turbine or similar generating device. The batteries are generally only used on the ground when the engines are not running.
Birdseed So one can attract birds. In practice, this wouldn't work for multiple reasons (high speed, altitude and windows being sealed being among most obvious ones) and would pose a significant hazard of birds getting stuck in an engine if it did. On the other hand, spreading birdseed before boarding would be seen as misconduct by airport authorities, as it may pose a danger to aircraft by attracting birds. Alternatively, birdseed can be used to attract birds after surviving a crash, e.g. to catch them for food.
Homing beacon Once activated, a homing beacon will send out a continuous radio signal so that rescuers can find your location. These can be very useful in a plane crash, but airplanes already carry them, so you don't need to pack one yourself.
Meteorite antidote Meteorites are pieces of space rocks that make it all the way to the ground. They can cause injury but they aren't poisonous[citation needed], so an antidote would not help.
USB wing connector this is a just a wire connector, but because it has wing in the name is on the list. alternatively, the plane wings connect by USB, and this can be used to reattach wings.
Spare flaps Flaps can be moved to adjust the lift/drag ratio of a wing, generally during takeoff and landing. Flaps are very large and mounted on the wing, outside the passenger compartment, so bringing spares would be very difficult and completely useless. Flaps failing to come down can also usually be remedied by just landing at a longer runway.
Mouthpiece (pandemic restriction; airlines still provide the trumpet) A part of a brass instrument like a trumpet. Randall jokes that trumpets are provided on airplanes (which would be very obnoxious to other passengers), but due to the pandemic you cannot use a shared mouthpiece.
Luggage ballast Likely to make plane more balanced. While balancing weight in a plane is indeed a real problem, it's solved by rearranging luggage and adjusting engine power slightly. Introducing ballast would mean additional weight for no real reason.
Flag (international flights) To identify your country of origin. Other flags are also used to communicate between boats without electricity, in the event the boats are in distress, so they could be used in the event of a crash.
Decoy tickets Maybe these would used as a distraction so you can sneak onto the plane without paying.
Keys to the plane Though some pushed for it after a plane was stolen in the 2018 Horizon Air Q400 incident, planes do not require keys to activate like a car does.


Ambox notice.png This transcript is incomplete. Please help editing it! Thanks.

Air Travel Packing List

If you haven't flown in a while, you might not remember what you need to bring. Use this handy checklist to pack!

[Two columns of lists of items. Each item is preceded by a checkbox.]

  • Seat cushion
  • Parachute
  • Wing glue
  • Air horn
  • Sextant
  • Nose plugs and goggles for pressure
  • Airplane shoes
  • Navigation crystal
  • Spare batteries in case the plane runs out
  • Birdseed
  • Homing beacon
  • Meteorite antidote
  • USB wing connector
  • Emergency siren
  • Spare flaps
  • Mouthpiece (pandemic restriction; airlines still provide the trumpet)
  • Luggage ballast
  • Flag (international flights)
  • Decoy tickets
  • Keys to the plane

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I'll work on this one, so I don't get edit conflicted. PoolloverNathan[stalk the blue seas]UTSc 23:16, 6 October 2021 (UTC)

A lot of these items that are listed as needed during a crash are not that related to crashing but some things that paranoid potential passengers feel they should have anyway. Nutster (talk) 02:04, 7 October 2021 (UTC)

I had a teacher that was a retired engineer. He complained about working on an airplane and he wanted to design a lightweight floor, but the heel of high heeled shoes would pierce through so he had to make it heaver than he wanted. One can imagine an alternate world where the lighter floors were chosen, where airplane shoes would be some kind of pressure distributing shoe. 02:32, 7 October 2021 (UTC)

I thought airplane shoes was a play on boat shoes, which are a thing. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boat_shoe Barmar (talk) 14:34, 7 October 2021 (UTC)

I think that the Flag for international flights is referring to a national flag not to a flag used for signaling messages. 03:20, 7 October 2021 (UTC)

Pedantry corner: parachutes don't keep you from falling out of the sky - they help you land safer when you do. 08:21, 7 October 2021 (UTC)

Like the old joke about falling out of a building: It's not the fall that kills you, it's the sudden stop at the end. Barmar (talk) 14:32, 7 October 2021 (UTC)

The mouthpiece may be a COVID-19 slur, referring to the requirement to cover your mouth -- 09:02, 7 October 2021 (UTC)

No I think it is just so you do not use the mouthpiece from the previous passenger because of the risk of covid-19. The idea that you before the pandemic would use the same mouth piece as multiple passengers before you is as gross as putting Toothpaste from your moth back in the tube again... :p --Kynde (talk) 06:58, 8 October 2021 (UTC)

Part of the joke may be that this list isn't for those who have travelled via plane but flown from cockpit. "so you can attract birds, and use THEM to fly the plane in case of crash" - What does that even mean? Bischoff (talk) 11:01, 7 October 2021 (UTC)

Some of those items could be from the computer game "Zak McKracken and the Alien Mindbenders" https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zak_McKracken_and_the_Alien_Mindbenders Seat Cushion, Birdseed, Parachute.

My first interpretation of the mouthpiece and trumpet was an early style telephone that had a separate mouthpiece and trumpet style earpiece.

Ballast is routinely used on aircraft. The baggage handlers that load the plane will usually add temporary ballast as needed. The manufacturer and aircraft mechanics may install permanent ballast blocks in order to ensure that the center of gravity is within limits.

I will edit the main text shortly. It will be my very first non-comment edit on this site. https://www.flightliteracy.com/ballast/Hamjudo (talk) 17:01, 7 October 2021 (UTC)

Great to have you onboard. Did you expect to avoid editing conflict by writing here first? Or just information. Keep the input coming, if you write something that people disagree with it will be edited later. So no problem making mistakes. --Kynde (talk) 06:59, 8 October 2021 (UTC)

"Spare batteries in case the plane runs out" surely refers to the regulations against spare lithium batteries, not just to the absurdity of using such batteries to power the aircraft. Modernhemalurgist (talk) 22:50, 7 October 2021 (UTC)

Seat backs on airliners have reclined, probably since the introduction of the DC-3. Once upon a time, there was enough space between seats to allow the recline function to be used without strangling the person behind. This is no longer the case, especially in steerage ... er, sorry, economy class. The true violators of etiquette are the airlines and their seating practices. The airlines will, of course, reject the charge, and say that the etiquette violators are passengers who demand space but refuse to pay for it. The whole demonstrates human ability to accept the unacceptable, and to distract ourselves from prime causes, and responsibilities, by means of petty and meaningless disputes. 03:22, 8 October 2021 (UTC)

Yes, it's a shame this has become controversial. It should be obvious that, regardless of whether you recline your seat or not, you should try and be considerate to the person behind you. There's so little space in cattle class nowadays that it can be an uncomfortable experience, especially if you're tall (like I am). I remember one particularly awful flight where I didn't get to eat because the person in front of me wouldn't put their seat back to upright even for the meal :-(. All this aside, I'm just glad I get to fly (or will do, once restrictions ease) and travel internationally on a budget. Zoid42 (talk) 07:02, 9 October 2021 (UTC)

Air horn! -- 08:14, 8 October 2021 (UTC)

Anyone else thinks Wing Glue may be a running joke about the wings of Icarus? Radnall already referenced them a few times both on xkcd and what-if.-- 14:57, 8 October 2021 (UTC)

This is the only comic I've seen where I feel this site may have missed the main joke of the comic. This doesn't work for all the items listed, but: many of them make perfect sense under the premise "if you haven't flown in a while", just that "you" and "flown" mean things other than a person as a passenger on a commercial airline. For example:

  • Seat cushion: if you're a person as a passenger on a commercial airline (the "base" or "normal" case).
  • Parachute: if you're a pilot in various military or experimental aircraft.
  • Wing glue: if you're Icarus.
  • Sextant: if you're piloting an airship, perhaps in a fantasy setting, or even perhaps a plane in the early history of aviation.
  • Birdseed: if you're a bird.
  • Homing beacon: if you're a larger commercial aircraft (or a human responsible for outfitting it with safety systems).
  • Keys to the plane: if you own a normal, small plane.

These ones I can think of a possible explanation but it's a bit unclear:

  • Nose plugs and goggles for pressure: if you're flying an aircraft in the atmosphere of another planet where the air pressure is much higher?
  • Navigation crystal: if you're flying an aircraft in a fantasy world?
  • Spare batteries in case the plane runs out: if you're flying some experimental electric aircraft?
  • Meteorite antidote: if you're flying a spacecraft in some sci-fi setting where meteorites were poisonous?

The others I don't have an idea for, which is why I came here looking for the explanation. -- 00:53, 9 October 2021 (UTC)

I think you could be on to something. However, the sextant was really used in airliners literally 40 years ago. The 70s and early 80s can hardly be called early history of aviation. -- 06:05, 12 October 2021 (UTC) 21:49, 11 October 2021 (UTC) probably "decoy tickets" are somehow related to a load of false targets any combat aeroplane tends to carry. When attacked by a homing missile, the pilot can drop decoys to lure the missile away from the aeroplane.

Goggles were(are?) regularly used on open-cockpit planes, nose plugs seems to be a kind of spark plug, sometimes used on the engine of such vehicles (I first thought it may have to do with the plane's nose, but it doesn't look so). Surprisingly I found some pictures of bird nests in aircraft engines on the way, but I doubt this has to do with the seeds. In general a lot can be explained by interpreting "you haven't flown in a while" as referred to a pilot and the "in a while" to several decades.-- 18:54, 13 October 2021 (UTC)

the wing glue could be a reference to that one story from Greek mythology where Icarus flys close to the sun and the wing glue melts-- 00:32, 15 October 2021 (UTC)

I am a bit disappointed that this is only a list of things to bring, neglecting the equally important list of things to *not* bring, and not using the potential of alternations between them (as one could create, for example, for electronics and their batteries). 13:38, 23 October 2021 (UTC)

There are some errors in the table… XkcdPhone (talk) 00:51, 24 November 2021 (UTC)

Keys to the plane may be in reference to a prank that is sometimes played on new airline pilots where the captain asks the new pilot where the keys are or if they have the keys. --Abrickwall (talk) 19:57, 21 December 2021 (UTC)