Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members! Download the app.
If you were to wear an altimeter watch on an airplane, what would the elevation reading be?
Submitted by – T.P., Eugene, OR
If you’re flying at 36,000 feet, and your watch registers 36,000 feet&ndashyou’ve got a problem.
Fortunately, airplane cabins are pressured “for your comfort,” as the pre-flight recording reminds us. If the cabin wasn’t pressurized, you’d have a few seconds to realize it before you passed out due to lack of oxygen and pressure. But now for the answer: Most commercial aircraft are pressurized to between 5,000 and 8,000 feet of elevation during flights. This means the pressure is the same as what you would experience if you stood on top of a 5,000 to 8,000-foot tall mountain. And since altimeter watches work by measuring the local barometric pressure, your watch should read between 5,000 and 8,000 feet. Airplanes aren’t pressured to sea level because the force of the air pushing outward on the fuselage would weaken the plane’s structural integrity and lifespan. One more thing. You know why so many people fall asleep in airplanes just before takeoff? Lowering the air pressure inside the cabin actually makes you drowsier, and also causes your ears to pop.