“Make sure your seatbacks and tray tables are in their fully upright and locked positions.”

You’ve heard these orders every time your flight has taken off and landed. But have you ever wondered “Why?”

I have. And I’d sometimes suspected it was part of the airlines’ nefarious plot to establish themselves as authority figures. Better to “keep the passengers down” and in their rightful place alongside sheep and cattle.

But alas, my research turned up no such malevolence. Not in this case, at least.

Turns out the airlines are only following orders themselves – from the FAA, in particular.

The Code of Federal Regulations, Title 14: Aeronautics and Space Part 121, Section 121.577 says “No certificate holder (airline) may move an airplane on the surface, take off, or land unless each food and beverage tray and seatback tray table is secured in its stowed position.”

According to the Journal of Air Transport Management, approximately 90 percent of all aviation accidents occur during the first two minutes or the last four minutes of flight. So this rule was put into effect to make emergency egress easier. It’s the same reason your bags “must fit completely underneath the seat in front of you.”

Good to know that at least the carriers didn’t come up with these rules simply to annoy us. This time.

[Ed Note: Charlie Byrne is Associate Publisher at Early to Rise. Sign up for e-mail delivery of his blog and get edgy and useful ideas on copywriting, marketing, and other category-defying posts.]

Charlie Byrne

Charlie Byrne is a former Senior Copywriter and Editorial Director for Early to Rise. Charlie spent the earlier part of his business career as a systems analyst, project manager and consultant in New York City for Fortune 100 companies including Philip Morris, Digital Equipment, and Citicorp as well as New York University and Columbia University. He then spent over ten years at Reuters Ltd and Interealty Corp designing and implementing financial, real estate and news information services. In 2003, he joined Early to Rise as a senior editor and copywriter. Since then he has helped publish over 1000 editions of ETR, resulting in gross revenues of well over $25 million. He has also produced dozens of winning sales letters and promotions, including two that brought in over $200,000 in under 24 hours, another two that have grossed over $1 million each, and a single sales letter that sold 25 units of a $10,000 product.