Baby, why’s it so cold in here?

If you haven’t heard Eddie Murphy’s routine about his granny complaining about the room being  drafty you should find it and buy it or download it or something. It is really funny.

Meanwhile if you fly in an airliner you will notice that it is just about always either drafty or too hot.  You might think that the airplane manufacturers and airlines could manage to get it a comfortable temperature. Once again pesky physics and command hierarchy gets involved to complicate things.

As for being too stuffy or just hot on the ground during the summer months this is usually a result of airlines cutting operational costs by using the ground based air conditioning systems . This allows them to delay starting the little APU turbine engine for your ground air conditioning needs and it saves a little fuel. It is a great idea for saving some jet fuel, it just doesn’t work very well. So, when the airplane is on the ground and it isn’t comfortable complain, complain and complain some more.

The flight attendants have NO control over the temperature on most airliners, and only a little on others. So the flight attendant, already multi-tasking by being either fabulous or glamorous and checking your seat belt at the same time, has to talk to the pilots. The pilots, already multi-tasking  by standing around and looking smart, have to tell the ground crew. “Hey guys, it’s a little hot up here … could you cool it off for us?” Sure, right away sir!

The thing is that this is a guy working on the ramp under the airplane where it might be twenty or thirty degrees hotter than it is in the shade, loading baggage, servicing lavatories, and trying not to get run over by a valued co-worker. He really is busy, and the equipment sucks.

In the air, especially on a long flight, ole man Kepler and his danged laws of thermodynamics start to really become evident. It is really cold at high altitude. About forty below zero on a good day. Interestingly, Fahrenheit and Centipede are the same at minus forty one.

After about an hour at cruise all of the aircraft structure becomes “cold soaked”.  A term meaning it is about as cold as it can get and ready to suck up heat from anything around it. Even you and your babies. There is a little insulation in the airplane walls but not much.

Anything not heated or insulated from the aircraft structure will freeze pretty quickly. Ice quickly forms on the inside of the airplane in places where moisture from all the people breathing contacts uninsulated aluminum. 

It is terribly ineffective to heat up people and metal stuff by blowing warm air in the general direction. Thing is, warm air is all we really have to offer. Actually, really HOT air is available but people cook easily so the air can only be delivered at about 110 degrees maximum without it feeling stuffy while you freeze your body parts off .

To be comfortable on a long flight Bring Your Own Blanket. Do not put an airline blanket on you if you can help it. They are nasty things. If you have a window seat use the blanket between you and the airplane wall, it should be pretty comfy.

If it is too hot in the air tell the flight attendants so they can tell the pilots. The pilots are already comfy since they have the controls. It’s a lot like banging on the pipes to tell the building super in the basement to turn on the heat for you. But you would have to live in some place like New York to know about that sort of thing so you would already know about complaining. Sometimes we freeze a group of passengers just because we don’t like them.  Sometimes we do it so the Flight Attendants will call us and while they are on the phone we can ask for coffee and snacks.  Great fun!

Happy Landings


4 Responses to “Baby, why’s it so cold in here?”

  1. Dang, I never thought to complain to the flight attendants about the temperature. I’ll have to remember that one.

    And thanks for letting me know that I was right about Snakes on a Plane. They said they had to turn off the air-conditioning so everyone was hot up in the air. They should have been freezing and the mf snakes on the mf plane should have been lethargic and easy to subdue.

    Anyway, Happy New Year!

  2. What about the rodents though?

  3. They’re mammals, I guess we’d have to put up with them. 🙂

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