Balloons and Planes: cabin pressure


Next time you’re on a plane (or a submarine!), take along some scotch tape and a balloon.


 


While you’re on the ground, waiting for take-off, inflate the balloon. Wrap the balloon with the tape around the equator and note how the tape constricts the balloon’s size (like a belt on your pants).


 


Tape the contraption to the overhead bins above and observe as your plane takes off and gains altitude.


 


Q. What happens?


 


 


 


 


A. Your fellow passengers give you strange looks!


 


 

Comments (6)

  1. decheung says:

    A. The federal air marshall puts you in a choke hold and arrests you. 🙂

  2. vishy says:

    Air pressure at higher altitudes is lower. Nothing should happen in this case because the airplane cabin is pressurized to airport level air pressure. However, if the cabin were to lose pressure for some reason, the higher-pressure air inside balloon would expand to equalize with the surrounding lower pressure. Initially, because the tape around the equator constricts its shape, the balloon would become kind of like a solid figure-of-8. Eventually the tape would rip and the balloon would explode.

  3. Patrick says:

    "Nothing should happen in this case because the airplane cabin is pressurized to airport level air pressure."

    This is not true (I’m a commercial pilot!).

    The cabin in most airliners is pressurized to around 8,000" at cruise altitudes, in order to reduce stress on the hull (ever feel your ears pop during ascent/descent?).

    The balloon would indeed expand.

  4. Carl Warner says:

    I don’t need a balloon on a plane to get strange looks from other passengers.

    How about a nice giraffe or a doggie?

  5. Jim says:

    Do you know this from personal experience?