Do you have a specific pre-flight ritual? If so, you’re not alone. Aviation superstitions and rituals for good luck primarily arose from the actions of military pilots during World War I and World War II. Because these early pilots would place themselves in high-risk situations each time they took to the skies, certain trusted rituals or lucky charms emerged as a way to ease their fear and anxiety before flights.
Many of these pre-flight rituals or superstitious beliefs about aircraft are still practiced today. Here are four common aviation superstitions that arose from the early days of flight:
During World War II, many military pilots would carry good luck charms aboard every flight, including silver dollars, a pair of lucky dice, rabbit’s feet, or soft stuffed animals that could be stuffed into their flight clothing.
Early military aviators also shared common traditional superstitious beliefs, such avoiding the number 13 or black cats. Some pilots would counter-intuitively carry coins where the year’s digits added up to 13, to align with the coin’s 13 stars and the eagle’s 13 feathers.
In his book Flying Against Fate, author S.P. Mackenzie describes how the stress on pilots during World War II produced odd behavior and rituals. One of the strangest rituals he cited involved dancing on the aircraft’s wing with an open umbrella for several minutes before entering the fuselage of a heavy bomber. Other common pre-flight rituals include kicking a certain tire, spitting on the tailfin, or placing chewing gum on the wing.
There are plenty of superstitions associated with the weather. Many pilots believe that pointing up at the sky may spark inclement weather. When giving a compliment to the weather conditions, pilots are encouraged to address only the sun and not the weather itself.