Pilot Explains Every Single ‘Scary’ Airplane Noise You Hear While Flying

For many travelers, the various sounds a plane makes during takeoff can be a source of anxiety, but there is no need for worry. Understanding what these different sounds mean may help calm any nerves on your next flight.

Self-proclaimed “aviation nerd” Riyadh Khalaf highlighted some of these “scary” plane noises in a viral video posted on his TikTok channel @riyadhkhalaf. It has received more than 3.9 million views since it was first shared on March 18.

San Francisco-based airline pilot Kyle Koukol unpacked these noises, emphasizing the precision and purpose behind each sound. He told Newsweek that the latest clip was “just about spot on with everything.”

Koukol is the founder of Dial a Pilot, a service that allows nervous flyers to book 15-minute calls with a pilot who can provide information to help ease their nerves about flying, according to the company website.

If you have a fear of flying, then you are not alone. A June 2021 study in Frontiers in Psychology showed that a fear of flying was found to be prevalent among around 10 to 40 percent of people in the industrialized world.

It is understandable that many do get nervous about flying, as clear-air turbulence (CAT) was found to have increased over the past 40 years, according to a June 2023 study published in Geophysical Research Letters.

The study showed that the increases were largest over the U.S. and North Atlantic, both of which are busy flight regions.

The study added that “severe-or-greater CAT increased the most, becoming 55 percent more frequent in 2020 than 1979,” and CAT is “projected to intensify in response to future climate change.”

Referring to some mechanical noises that passengers may first take notice of on a plane, Khalaf says in the latest clip: “The flaps on the back of the wings are going down. That makes the wing bigger, helps us take off at a slower speed so we don’t have to use the whole runway. The engine’s being powered up to maybe 10 or 20 percent just to move us along as we taxi to the runway.”

Khalaf then points out some more audible cues of the pre-takeoff sequence, including the cabin dings. “The pilot’s telling the cabin crew that takeoff is about to happen,” signaling that the plane is at the edge of the runway and they need to be seated.

As the engines spool up, Khalaf says, “the engine’s coming up to about 30 percent slowly and staying there so that they don’t get flooded with too much fuel. And then up to full takeoff power.”

Koukol told Newsweek: “When we initially push the power up during the takeoff roll, we are actually pushing the throttles up to an intermediate percentage briefly—call it 30 to 55 percent, it varies from aircraft to aircraft—to allow the engines to spool up simultaneously.”

The pilot added that this method helps prevent any asymmetric thrust during the takeoff roll, which is crucial for maintaining control of the aircraft.

Khalaf also highlights the thumping noises heard in the video, as the plane speeds along the runway. He says: “You’ll hear the bang bang; that’s simply the nose gear or nose wheel going over the lights in the middle of the runway.”

Koukol also said that these thumping sounds are caused by “runway centerline lights,” which are critical for navigation and safety, especially in low-visibility conditions.

The poster Khalaf says that the thumping indicates that the aircraft is in the center of the runway in “a very, very safe zone.” The banging stops once the nose gear lifts off the ground and “we are now airborne, it’s a bit quieter,” he adds.

Khalaf also says that the bit that “freaks people out the most” is that “little dip” you feel shortly after takeoff. This dip is known as “thrust reduction,” Koukol said, which means that the engines are going from takeoff power to climb power.

This adjustment not only reduces wear on the engines but also lessens noise pollution, making the areas that surround airports more pleasant.

“This altitude may also correspond with the altitude at which we start to retract the flaps, allowing us to fly faster. You may hear a mechanical ‘whirring’ noise and feel a very slight sinking feeling during flap retraction,” Koukol said.

Newsweek has contacted the original poster for comment via TikTok. This video has not been independently verified.

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Woman scared on plane.
A woman appears scared on a plane. A video of unpacking “scary airplane noises” you hear at takeoff has gone viral on TikTok.

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