Scary plane noises explained for anyone with a fear of flying


Fear of flying can be made worse by the noises that planes make - leaving nervous passengers worrying whether the sounds are normal or something more sinister. 
Now that more of us have the opportunity to take flights again after the scrapping of restrictions, we take a look at noises aircraft make and if they're anything to be worried about when it comes to the safety of the airliner.
Typical noises from a planeFind out what those noises mean on a plane - and if they are anything to worry about 
Take a journey through the four stages of your flight, with our guide to the sounds of flying...


From boarding to pushing back from the stand and heading out to the runway - keep the anxiety levels in check with this guide to noises and sounds coming from the plane.

1. Whirring noise as you board the plane

This is caused by the auxiliary power unit (APU) set in the plane's tail. It’s there to power to the plane’s systems when the main engines are switched off. This is a normal sound to hear as you head to your seat and wait to push back for your flight. You might also here a loud screaming sound or a muffled roar, this will be from the plane’s air-conditioning packs.
Have a listen to the sound of an APU start up and run.

2. Bangs and vibrations felt beneath your seat as you wait for take-off

Many passengers are worried by bangs and vibrations coming from below their feet as they wait to push back - perhaps the plane has hit something and been damaged? However, in reality, this is likely to be your bags joining you on your flight – which is always a good start to your trip rather than going missing. Many planes still use baggage packs that need to be loaded and locked into place – creating a large amount of noise and shockwaves that make their way into the cabin.

3. What is the sudden high-pitched whine just before the plane leaves the stand?

While this will sound alarming, the sound is a hydraulic pump beneath the wing in most planes. It tells you that all the bags are loaded and the hold doors are being closed – meaning it shouldn’t be long before your flight gets on the move.

4. What do all the ‘bings’ and ‘bongs’ in the cabin mean?

This is the internal phone system being used by the crew to report pre-flight checks back to the cabin manager. The sheer amount of these sounds will put some passengers on edge, but it’s perfectly normal.

5. What are the ‘yelping’ sounds while we taxi?

If travelling on an Airbus aircraft, you have most likely noticed a sound known as the ‘barking dog’. This is unique to Airbus planes and is caused by the aircraft’s three hydraulic systems being connected to the Power Transfer Unit (PTU). Listen out for these sounds coming from beneath your feet while you taxi out. Alarming, but completely normal for Airbus planes.


While many will be eagerly staring out of the window, eager to get the engines spooled and wheels rolling, nervous flyers will be clenching their fists with anguish. Here's what you need to know about aircraft sounds associated with take-off.        

6. Thump-like noises on a plane as you speed down the runway

Any bump or thump will be worrying for nervous flyers, but this is most likely to be caused by the plane’s wheels occasionally running over the runway’s central lights. Just think about when you’re in a car that strays onto the Cats Eyes in the middle of the road. Noisy but harmless.

7. The engines sound different compared to the last time I flew

Depending on where you sit in the cabin, the engines will produce a different type of sound. Sit at the front of the cabin and you’ll hear more of a whirring engine fan noise from the powerplants, sit behind the wing and expect a roar from the exhaust end of business. Both perfectly normal.

8. We’re off the ground, but what’s that really loud noise of wind and whirring as we climb?

Take-off can be a stressful part of a flight for many of us and the loud noises that occur as the plane climbs can cause concern. Fortunately, there’s no need to be worried, it’s simply the wheels being put away for the flight. You may hear hydraulics winding-in the heavy landing gear, along with aerodynamic noises as doors open to let the ‘gear’ retract. There might even be a bang as the mechanism and doors lock into place. Listen out for a single chime in the cabin – this lets you know the landing gear is safely retracted and locked.


Traditionally the most relaxed segment of the flight, but this doesn't mean there aren't any noises to build anxiety. Find out what they mean here.

9. Why does the plane's engine noise decrease then suddenly increase? Is there a problem?

Don’t worry, the pilot hasn’t just realised he’s getting too low, it’s likely he or she is being told to climb as part of air traffic control instructions. Again, this is completely normal and will vary across flights.
The frequent turns and changes in engine tone could also be made worse by complicated flight paths designed to keep climbing planes away from local residents to help reduce noise levels.

10. It sounds like the plane's engines have just stopped!

Don’t worry, this is likely to be the captain throttling back the engines as he starts the craft's descent. In many cases, this will involve setting the engines to idle for the best part of the descent. The drop in power will drastically cut the engine noise and make it sound like they’ve stopped altogether.
This will also make sudden increases in power – to make turns, or level off, for example – sound even more alarming. Don’t worry, it’s a normal day at the office for the pilots.


Returning a plane back to the tarmac requires the crew's full attention, so don't expect a running commentary from the cockpit. Unfortunately, not hearing the captain's reassuring tones can build anxiety levels as a cacophony of sounds reverberate through the cabin. Here's what they mean.

11. Roars and bangs

As you make the final approach to land, the captain may employ air brakes, which create a dramatic and potentially alarming increase in wind noise. Nervous flyers won’t like it, but there’s no need for concern.
Next up, there’s likely to be a bang and whirring. Again, there’s no need to be alarmed this is simply the landing gear doors opening and the wheels extending and locking into place.

12. More roars and the barking dog sound returns

After the plane lands, the pilot will deploy panels that come out of the wings to keep aircraft on the ground and to help slow it down. The engines will also be switched to reverse thrust – signally and loud, but completely normal roar. Don’t worry if it’s louder than usual, runways require different settings.
Airbus passengers should also expect to hear more from the ‘barking’ dog as the PTU balances the hydraulics.

See why reverse thrust causes such a roar on landing.


facebook sharing button Share
twitter sharing button Tweet
pinterest sharing button Pin
email sharing button Email
sms sharing button Share
sharethis sharing button Share


Author: Pete Barden:

Twitter: @pete_barden

Pete Barden is a qualified journalist who has written and produced for publications including The Sun (, New Statesman Media Group, Whatcar? ( Stuff Magazine (, Fastcar Magazine (, Maxim Magazine and UK broadcast stations within the Heart network (Formerly GCAP). Pete specialises in motoring and travel content, along with news and production roles. You can find out more about Pete Barden on LinkedIn.

 About us: Pete Barden Motoring and Travel News

See our privacy page here