Stephan Lee
May 07, 2013 AT 03:01 PM EDT

No modern convenience is safe from a tell-all book: Kitchen Confidential and Waiter Rant lifted the veil on the restaurant biz; Heads in Beds taught you how to play the hotel industry; and now Cockpit Confidential (out today) by pilot Patrick Smith, author of Ask the Pilot, exposes facts you didn’t know you wanted to know about commercial airlines. In the book, he covers all the mysterious ins and outs of flying today, including where your airfare dollars go, the secrets behind airport security, the truth about cockpit automation, the real story on what causes delays… and what about that in-flight customer service (or lack thereof)? Everyone loves to complain about flying, so you might as well be informed about your complaints! See a few facts from the book below:

  • Cabin air is drier than most deserts. At 12 percent humidity, the typical cabin is exceptionally dry and dehydrating due to cruising at high altitudes. Humidifying a cabin is too costly and could cause corrosion, so air travelers are encouraged to stay hydrated.
  • Turbulence is a convenience issue, not a safety concern. The pilots aren’t worried about the wings falling off; they’re trying to keep customers relaxed and everybody’s coffee where it belongs. Planes typically only shift 10 to 20 feet during turbulence.
  • Nearly every plane glides during its descent. It is common for jets to descend at what pilots call “flight idle” with the engines still operating and powering, but providing no push. If the engines quit outright, the glide itself would be no different. From 30,000 feet, pilots can plan on a hundred miles worth of glide.
  • A captain earns roughly $6.42 per passenger on a flight from New York to San Francisco. The captain of a Boeing 767 makes $180 per flight hour. The plane has 120 seats and the flight lasts six hours. The average flight is 80 percent full, which means the captain earns a little more than $6 of your fare.
  • Passengers and their luggage only account for 10 percent of a plane’s total bulk. Fuel is the biggest factor, sometimes accounting for a third or more of a plane’s sum heft. Pilots calculate their kerosene in terms of pounds, not gallons. Everything from initial fueling to en route burn is added or subtracted by weight, not volume.

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