by Janet Spencer

About 2,900,000 people fly in and out of airports in the U.S. each day, including commercial and private flights. Come along with Tidbits as we take to the skies!


The longest commercial air flight in the world travels between New York City and Singapore at 9,537 miles (15,350 km). The flight lasts about 19 hours.

• The world’s shortest commercial air flight is just 1.7 miles long (3 km), hopping from one island to another in the Orkney Archipelago off the coast of Scotland. The flight lasts less than two minutes in an 8-seater plane, and tickets cost $20. The trip is made three times a day, ferrying not only the 80 local residents but also tourists.

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• The Daocheng Yading Airport in China is the world’s highest civilian airport, located at an elevation of 14,472 feet (4,411 m) above sea level. The tallest mountain in the contiguous United States is Mount Whitney in California, which stands 14,494 feet tall (4,418 m) at its highest point. The Daocheng Yading Airport offers year-round daily flights to Chengdu in Sichuan, China’s sixth-largest city. The flights are weather-dependent. During the warm season, when tourists flock to the area, more flights are added to and from various other destinations.

In 1991, a Boeing 747 took off during an evacuation from Ethiopia with 1,084 people on board. Three births occurred during the flight, which landed in Tel Aviv with 1,087 people on board. This flight still holds the record for the greatest number of people ever carried on a single flight.

• The largest commercial passenger aircraft is the Airbus A380. It usually holds 544 passengers. However, if all the seats were economy, it could carry a maximum of 853 passengers.

• The wingspan of the Airbus A380, at 262 feet (80 m), is longer than the length of the aircraft itself, at 238 feet (73 m).

• The F.A.A. handles about 45,000 flights every day across the U.S.

• There may be up to 5,400 planes airborne at any given moment over the U.S.

• There are 19,633 airports in the U.S. with about two-thirds being public airports and one-third private.

• The airline industry in the U.S. employs about half a million full-time people as of 2023.

• About 14,000 people are employed as air traffic controllers in the U.S.                                                             

• The largest airports in the world, as measured by passenger traffic, are Hartsfield-Jackson in Atlanta; Dallas/Fort Worth in Texas; Denver, Colorado; Chicago O’Hare; Dubai; Los Angeles; Istanbul, Turkey; London Heathrow; Delhi, India; and Charles de Gaulle in Paris.

• About 4.27 billion pieces of luggage are checked each year worldwide. About 6 or 7 out of every 1,000 bags don’t make it to the destination on time. Of those, 77%    are only delayed for a few days; 18%    are damaged; and 5% are lost.

• Windows in air traffic control towers are tilted at the precise angle of 15° to reduce reflections.

Between 2009 and 2021, the FAA reports that 146 passengers were injured by turbulence badly enough to require medical attention. Of those, 30 were passengers and 116 were crew. Nearly all were hurt when they were out of their seats, or seated but not buckled in. Turbulence can occur in clear weather as well as bad and cannot be detected by radar.

• Oxygen masks on planes last between 10 and 20 minutes, long enough for the aircraft to descend to 10,000 feet, where oxygen isn’t needed.

• Chicago’s O’Hare Airport averages about 2,500 aircraft movements daily, more than any other airport worldwide. However, when ranked by the number of passengers, O’Hare is the fourth-busiest airport in the world. O’Hare boasts non-stop flights to 214 destinations worldwide and has 213 gates.

• Because of the rise of Chicago-based meat packing plants such as Oscar Mayer and Armour, Chicago became a hot dog hub. O’Hare Airport sells about 2 million hot dogs per year, more than any other location.

• There are around 90,000 flight attendants currently employed in the U.S. About 80 percent are female, and 20 percent are male. The average age of a flight attendant is 49.

• Worldwide, in 2022, there were 12 commercial airline accidents resulting in 229 fatalities. It’s estimated that 3,781,000,000 passengers flew safely on commercial air flights globally in 2022.

• The chances of being killed in a plane crash are 1 in 4.7 million.

• It takes about 45,000 gallons of aviation fuel to fill up a Boeing 747. The plane burns 38 gallons every minute, averaging 0.16 miles per gallon. However, because it carries around 200 passengers, it’s getting three times better gas mileage per passenger than a typical SUV.

On February 7, 1996, the Concorde set a world record for the fastest transatlantic trip in history. It flew from New York City to London, a journey of 3,440 miles (5,536 km), in only two hours, 52 minutes. The supersonic jet traveled at an average speed of 1,250 mph (2,012 kph). They broke the world record for fastest transatlantic flight by taking advantage of the tailwinds that day. Generally, the Concorde trips took over three and a half hours. The Concorde was permanently retired from service in 2003 following a devastating crash in France in 2000. Today, the average trip from New York to London on a typical aircraft takes five or six hours.

• The Concord also set the speed record for circumnavigating the globe in 1995. The flight started and ended in New York City and lasted 31 hours, 27 minutes, 49 seconds, beating its previous record by over an hour. The record-breaking flight celebrated the 500th anniversary of Christopher Columbus landing in America. Eighty passengers were along for the ride. The speed record still stands.

• In 1947, Chuck Yeager was the first pilot to break the sound barrier. Many people thought that traveling faster than the speed of sound would cause an aircraft to disintegrate. On October 14, 1947, Yeager’s X-1 aircraft, nicknamed “Glamorous Glennis” after his wife, was carried to an altitude of 25,000 feet (7.6 km) by a B-29 bomber before being released from the bomb bay. The X-1 shot to 40,000 feet (12 km) and broke the sound barrier at 662 mph (1,065 kph) over Southern California for the first time in history.

• The Wright brothers’ first flight lasted 59 seconds. It was the longest flight of four they took that day. The wingspan of a Boeing 747 is longer than the first flight the Wright Brothers took. It was just 66 years after the first flight at Kitty Hawk that mankind first landed on the Moon.