|Revision 1.0||29 March 2005|
Here I sit on the hot side of the plane. Airliners (does anyone call commercial flights airliners anymore?) usually have a hot side and a cold side. Today, I am stuck on the hot side.
This is like the 19th century British ships that sailed between Britain and India. On the trip south, the left or port side of the ship had the morning sun and avoided the hot afternoon sun. That was nice. On the return trip north, the right or starboard side of the ship had the morning sun and the afternoon shade. Nice once again. Passengers paid an extra fee for the port-out starboard-home (POSH) cabins.
We have POSH travel still today on airplane trips. No one pays a premium for the good side of the plane. I guess that is because there is no good side of the plane.
Most flights in the U.S travel more east-west than north-south. The lower 48 states are wider than tall.
We are on the north side of the equator. Hence, the sun is to the south of us as it rises in the east and sets in the west. The sun always hits the south side of the airplane on these east-west flights. The south side of the airplane absorbs the sun's rays and becomes warm.
The warmth is noticeable when I sit next to the south-side window. I can either pull the window shade down or leave it up. When I pull the window shade down it soon becomes hot and acts as a heater placed only three inches from my arm and six inches from my face. When I leave the window shade up, the sun shines directly on my arm and face. This is the perfect opportunity to have a sunburn on one cheek.
People tell me that I cannot get a sunburn inside the airplane. The plastic window absorbs the ultra violet (UV) rays from the sun. Sunburn is not possible. Other people warn about the dangers of UV rays on an airplane. The airplane flies high enough in the sky to avoid the protective filtering that the atmosphere provides against UV rays. So even though the plastic window protects me, the high altitude endangers me. I don't know and I don't care. I am awful uncomfortable sitting here in the sun.
Everyday is a sunny day on a flight. The planes fly at umpty-umpt thousand feet. This means we're above the fluffy, protective clouds. Sunny flights makes sitting at the south window uncomfortable on most days and unbearable on the rest of the days.
The north side of the plane is the far extreme from the south side. One east-west flights, the north side is shielded from the sun and is in perpetual shade. Now recall that the plane is at umpty-umpt thousand feet. The outside temperature at this elevation is dozens of degrees below zero. Oh, we are traveling at 500 miles per hour, so look up the wind chill factor at the far edge of one of those charts. That death inducing temperature is six inches from the tip of my nose.
Now we consider the exit door. I like to sit in one of the exit rows on my flights. The exit row has a lot of extra leg room so everyone can escape between the rows through the exit door. On some planes, I have to loosen my seat belt as far as it will go so I can scoot forward in my seat to reach my flip-down table. This is much more comfortable than the other rows on the plane.
The trouble with being on the exit row is that the temperature seal around the door is not nearly as good as in the remainder of the airplane. The cold seeps in and turns the wall and floor of the plane into one large piece of cold steel. In other words, I freeze when I sit next to the exit door on the north side of the airplane. Sitting next to the north exit door is the only time a grab for the cheap, little "blankets" that the airlines provide.
The north-south flights aren't much better than the east-west flights. The POSH rule applies from the 19th century. In the morning, flying south the left or east side of the plane is in the rising sun. Hence, it is the hot side. In the afternoon, flying north the left or west side of the plane is in the setting sun. Once again it is the hot side. Reverse these directions for the other part of the day. Or is it keep the directions the same but switch sides of the plane for the months of the year that end in "y?" Never mind, figure it out for yourself.
One of the outcomes of this hot side and cold side of the plane is that I try to sit in an aisle seat. The center of the plane is not as affected by the north-south polar opposites. There is enough air movement and other things that spread the heat and cold. There is nothing like the aisle seat in an exit row. Ah, heaven on earth. If only they served ice cream on the airplane.
I have related this hot-side cold-side theory of airplane travel to several colleagues and fellow travelers. Some people tell me that I think about this too much. I should relax, sit down, and enjoy the food. Others tell me that they won't fly with me because I have figured out their secret and will compete with them for the good seats.
Maybe I should take a nap and stop thinking about such things. If I could only get enough cool air to blow out of the vent to balance the heat from the blazing sun.