Why Planes Get Water Salutes And Other Pilot Traditions Explained

Why Planes Get Water Salutes And Other Pilot Traditions Explained


Ever seen an airplane going through an arch
of water between two fire trucks at the airport? Me neither, but I’d assume the aircraft
is just getting a nice cleaning. But wait, why would they use firetrucks to wash an airplane?
The short answer is, they don’t! Sometimes, on very special occasions, a usually
even number of firetrucks equipped with water cannons line up at the airport to greet an
airplane that just landed. This “water salute” is quite a beautiful display. If you’re
like me and wondering why you’ve never seen this shower of aviation affection in person,
it’s because the celebratory show doesn’t happen often. There are occasions that call
for it, but I’ll get into that here in a bit. For now, let’s see where this tradition stems
from. It’s a topic of some debate, but the generally accepted version is that it has
to do with old maritime traditions. Many years ago, ocean liners setting off on their first
trip overseas would get showered with water cannons from fireboats and tugs. They’d
also greet the ship arriving from its maiden voyage in the same way to congratulate the
crew on the new destination in their route. Something the Titanic missed out on. The idea to greet airplanes like this took
off in the ‘90s at Salt Lake City International Airport. There, retiring Delta pilots were
met with a farewell water arch after landing the aircraft. They did and still do it as
a way to show respect and gratitude for their years of service. Saying goodbye to a veteran
pilot isn’t the only cause for an epic water salute. It’s also done when a plane is flying
to a new destination in the route network for the first time or, on the contrary, it’s
arriving somewhere for the last time. New airlines that start flying from a certain
airport are also welcomed in this spectacular way. Finally, during major sporting events
like the Olympics, the plane carrying the winning national team can land to a shower
of affection and congratulations. Unless the salute is organized for a retiring
captain, the pilot will always be informed of it. That way, they can let the passengers
know ahead of time that there will be a festive welcoming. Otherwise, travelers might get
pretty nervous at the sight of lit-up firetrucks spraying water on the plane! When a captain
is retiring, many co-pilots will secretly inform the airport authorities while the captain
is away to make it a real heart-warming surprise. To organize a water salute, the rescue department
works together with air traffic control, which gives them the exact landing time and taxiway
for the flight. Fire Trucks typically get on both sides of the taxiway. There are sometimes
three of them forming a triangle of water streams meeting at the center. All of this
lasts only about 2 minutes. But within that short time, they spray around 3,000 gallons
of water 250 feet up in the air! Sounds like a waste of water at first, but
don’t worry. It’s actually good for firefighters to use the water cannons and other equipment.
It might be a good way for newbies to practice, and it serves as a way to check that all the
parts are working. It’s important to control the speed and direction of the water streams
so that passengers boarding nearby planes don’t get drenched! The fact that water salutes are a pretty rare
phenomenon only makes them look and feel even more special. But they’re not the only tradition
you can find in aviation! – Cutting the shirttail after the first solo
flight The first solo flight is a milestone and emotional
event for any pilot. It involves student pilots making a few loops and taking off and landing
several times without any help from the instructor. After it’s done, the new pilot taxies to the
ramp, where their instructor is waiting to cut the tail out of their shirt. This tradition
dates back to the old days when the instructor sat behind the student in tandem and tugged
at their shirttail to get their attention when they were doing something wrong. There
were no headsets to transmit that information, and it was too loud in the cabin to just talk
to the student (or yell at them). So, cutting the tail off is a way for the instructor to
show the new pilot that they have confidence in them and won’t be needing to tug on that
tail anymore! This pilot can now fly independently! Some aviation schools hang the shirt pieces
out on the wall afterward as part of the Hall of Fame. – Grabbing a “$100 hamburger”
In pilot slang, a “hundred-dollar hamburger” means an excuse to fly somewhere for the thrill
of it. I’m not talking about huge passenger liners here, but small private planes. For
a pilot, there’s nothing better than flight itself, so the destination or cause doesn’t
really matter. Some years ago, renting a light general aviation plane for a round trip to
another airport in the area would generally cost around a hundred dollars. When asked
why they went there, the pilots would explain it as “grabbing an exceptionally good burger.”
Today, that burger would cost way more than just a hundred bucks, but the slang for a
flight with no particular goal keeps on living. – Pancake breakfast fly-ins
This one sounds similar to the hundred-dollar hamburger, except there’s a more evident
reason behind it. Pilots get together at fly-ins to discuss their air adventures, fly around
together, and compete in spot landing. It can be a small pancake breakfast for anyone
who wants to meet up or a bigger event like a full-on pilot festival. They find out about
such get-togethers online. – Pre-flight rituals
Pilots don’t get as nervous before the flight as passengers with aerophobia, of course.
But some changes in their routine can mess up their mood and focus. And if there’s
anybody that needs those two things, it’d be pilots. In order to get in the zone, many
of them follow the same pre-flight rituals. I’m not talking about checking the equipment
before taking off – that’s just part of the job. These personal rituals might include
listening to the same music or having the same meal. Comfort food works the same for
pilots as it does for the rest of us! Plus, it’s a guarantee they won’t get sick in
the air. – No pictures outside of the plane before
the flight This one is more of a superstition, but many
pilots take it pretty seriously. There’s an urban legend that says some pilot once
allowed a journalist to take a picture of him right before the mission, and, well, the
flight didn’t go smoothly, to say the least. So now, many pilots would rather give the
journalist their cap and let them take their seat for a picture than actually be in that
picture themselves before the flight. By the way, do you avoid any superstitions yourself?
Knocking on wood? Avoiding black cats? Spitting on your airline seat before sitting down?
Let me know down in the comments! – Never pointing at the sky before take-off
Obviously, nobody likes flying in bad weather. It makes passengers anxious, and it makes
a pilot’s job even more complicated. But it’s not only about the ride itself. Sometimes,
flights can get canceled altogether, and then it affects a pilot’s whole schedule and
working hours. So, in comes the next superstition: many pilots never point at the sky before
going up since they believe it can bring bad weather. However, talking to the sun in good
weather is supposed to help those great conditions stick around. No one knows where these traditions
come from, but, hey, whatever it takes to keep my flight smooth as butter! – Touching the nose of the plane
Pilots usually build a special connection with their airplanes and even give them nicknames
and talk to them. One good luck ritual is petting the plane on the nose, much like you
do to your dog or cat. Not only pilots but also passengers do it as a little “thank
you” or “please get us there safely” ritual. Only, passengers don’t always get
access to the plane’s nose and just touch the aircraft as close as they can to the nose. – Rubbing the seatbelt light before turning
it on Turbulence is a regular part of the flying
experience – when you’re moving through so many air molecules that fast, a little
rocking is bound to occur. Yet many passengers still don’t like the feeling, and pilots
are aware. So, they’ve come up with another little ritual to keep the scary stuff away!
Before they turn on the Fasten Seatbelts sign, they rub it a little. They do it secretly
in hopes that the turbulence will pass and there will be no need to push the button. Well… that was scientific… Hey, if you learned something new today, then
give the video a like and share it with a friend! And here are some other cool videos
I think you’ll enjoy. Just click to the left or right, and stay on the Bright Side of life!

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About the Author: John Markowski

100 Comments

  1. And the think is before like a new plane that's not in the fleet or a pilot retiring wait but if there is also a real fire happening at the airport

  2. They also give the military service personal the same water salute either returning or departing. Honor Flight as well.

  3. Wait a min i thought they did that to clean the plane or whatever when it lands so it looks good for everyone

  4. Was in one in Switzerland departing for Berlin before takeoff there was a water salute. The pilot told us about it in the speaker but couldn't understand it since he had a heavy European accent. He was quite happy about it. We then started off and were then delayed again for some minutes just before we hit the runaway. They were afraid the water on the aircraft would crystalize ones the aircraft was in the air. So we had to wait for de-icing., which took another few minutes to complete.

  5. It's really cool how in Every video I learn something new to share to my friends
    Thank you Bright Side 💡

    I am thanking my next 50 subs

  6. I USED TO WORK AS A RAMP AGENT IN THE ORLANDO INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT AND I ALWAYS RUBBED THE PLANES BELLY.ALWAYS TREAT THE MACHINES WITH AFECTION.SPECIALY PLANES AND CARS.

  7. Spitting Superstition? No. Never heard of it. And please, don't do it. I pat the outside of the plane as I'm entering the door.

  8. As an airfield firefighter for my city’s airport and air national guard base I can attest to this. It’s a pretty cool tradition for our commercial aircraft and our jets at the base

  9. Do you avoid any superstitions yourself? Knocking on wood? Avoiding black cats? Spitting on your airline seat before sitting down?

  10. OMG Bright side point out the most obvious reason for the water hose celebration… they are called Honor Flights, a nonprofit organization that takes US military veterans to DC and other historic American cities to allow them to visit our memorials of the wars they fought in

  11. I've seen it 3 times that fire trucks have taken and sprayed aircraft so I know what it's like when they spray 🙂

  12. so, basically everything said was nearly word to word with captain joes one, and also at 1:32, it looks like u used one of the character art from the infographics show?

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