Why Planes Don’t Fly Any Faster Than They Did in the 1960s

iStock
iStock

The airplane experience has changed a lot since the 1960s, when tickets could cost up to five times more than today's prices, passengers could smoke on the plane and have as much booze as they could drink. Now, we have budget fares, tiny seats, and baggage fees. But one aspect of air travel hasn’t changed much over the last few decades: how fast the plane goes. We’re still flying at the same speeds we did back before man had made it to the moon.

Despite upgrades in aviation technology, airplanes fly around the same speeds as they did 50 years ago, according to the explainers Wendover Productions (who have previously covered how budget airlines keep prices low). Flights are scheduled to take longer, though, thanks to the congestion of planes getting in and out of airports, meaning that we actually spend more time flying the same routes. Like most terrible things about flying, the lack of speed has to do with the airlines' bottom lines.

One reason is that the speeds we were flying in the ‘60s are still the most efficient for the engines we use. Commercial aircraft are typically powered by turbofan engines, which are most efficient at speeds of 400 to 620 miles per hour. Military aircraft can go much faster with turbojet enginesmore than 1500 miles per hour in some cases—but that takes an incredible amount of fuel.

The Concorde aircraft could reach speeds of 1300 miles per hour at cruise altitude, but it used 46.85 pounds of fuel for every mile flown and could seat only 100 passengers. Boeing’s new 787 Dreamliner, which has a cruise speed of 648 miles per hour, uses only 18.7 pounds of fuel per mile and can seat 291 passengers. The speed just wasn’t worth it for airlines, and the Concorde was retired in 2003.

Dive into the world of airplane engines in the video below:

Wayfair’s Fourth of July Clearance Sale Takes Up to 60 Percent Off Grills and Outdoor Furniture

Wayfair/Weber
Wayfair/Weber

This Fourth of July, Wayfair is making sure you can turn your backyard into an oasis while keeping your bank account intact with a clearance sale that features savings of up to 60 percent on essentials like chairs, hammocks, games, and grills. Take a look at some of the highlights below.

Outdoor Furniture

Brisbane bench from Wayfair
Brisbane/Wayfair

- Jericho 9-Foot Market Umbrella $92 (Save 15 percent)
- Woodstock Patio Chairs (Set of Two) $310 (Save 54 percent)
- Brisbane Wooden Storage Bench $243 (Save 62 percent)
- Kordell Nine-Piece Rattan Sectional Seating Group with Cushions $1800 (Save 27 percent)
- Nelsonville 12-Piece Multiple Chairs Seating Group $1860 (Save 56 percent)
- Collingswood Three-Piece Seating Group with Cushions $410 (Save 33 percent)

Grills and Accessories

Dyna-Glo electric smoker.
Dyna-Glo/Wayfair

- Spirit® II E-310 Gas Grill $479 (Save 17 percent)
- Portable Three-Burner Propane Gas Grill $104 (Save 20 percent)
- Digital Bluetooth Electric Smoker $224 (Save 25 percent)
- Cuisinart Grilling Tool Set $38 (Save 5 percent)

Outdoor games

American flag cornhole game.
GoSports

- American Flag Cornhole Board $57 (Save 19 percent)
- Giant Four in a Row Game $30 (Save 6 percent)
- Giant Jenga Game $119 (Save 30 percent)

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

No Squawking, Please: A Backyard Bird Library Is the Star of This Livestream

Bird Library, YouTube
Bird Library, YouTube

Many people discovered backyard birding when they were quarantined in their homes at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Even if you have a vibrant wildlife population in your area, the Bird Library webcam is worth checking out. As Atlas Obscura reports, the bird feeder at the focus of the livestream resembles a tiny library where feathered guests can misbehave.

Librarian Rebecca Flowers and woodworker Kevin Cwalina were inspired to build the Bird Library in 2015. Located in a backyard in Charlottesville, Virginia, it features a miniature reading chair, bookshelves, and a reception desk. The decorations are even updated to match the seasons; the feeder currently sports a banner that says "Summer Reading." The main differences setting it apart from a real library are the bird seed scattered on the floor and the avian visitors.

The Bird Library attracts a diverse collection of patrons. Sparrows, cardinals, and mourning doves have been recorded perching on the librarian's desk and checking out the reading materials. The occasional squirrel has also been known to stop by.

Live video of the feeder streams on the Bird Library's YouTube page and website 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You can play the video below to check in on the current guests. If the backyard Bird Library has inspired you to find birds closer to home, here's some gear for beginner naturalists.

[h/t Atlas Obscura]