Myth Busting – Opening a Plane's Door in Midair

Myth Busted – Airplane Doors Can't be Opened

Relax, my fellow passengers.

One cannot open the door of a modern, pressurized commercial jet in midair. The reason: doors won't open in mid-flight due to pressure, and because of the way plane doors are constructed.

I like this explanation of airline doors I saw a few years back in USA Today: the aircraft doors in question are "plug type" doors, meaning "When closed, [these doors] are larger than the openings. You can push on a cabin door all you want, but it's not going to go through the smaller opening."

Now does that fact stop anyone from trying? Of course not. And I've got some examples to share with you just after the video (and believe me, I could have mentioned many, many more examples).

Video – Rick Busts Myths on ABC's 20/20

Here's me busting more air travel myths on ABC's 20/20 a couple of years ago.

Now what about those folks who tried to open doors on planes? Here are just a few of those examples I mentioned earlier:

Three Incidents – Passengers Who Tried to Open Airplane Doors

  • It happened on American Airlines, when a woman tried to open the plane's emergency exit door during a flight from Orlando to Dallas, prompting the pilot to divert to Houston. No, the door didn't open.
  • It happened on WestJet during a flight over Canada, once again prompting the pilot to divert the plane. The suspect in this case who tried (and failed) to open the jet's door was sentenced to jail time.
  • It also happened aboard a Delta flight from Los Angeles to Florida; it took eight passengers to subdue this suspect, who – when he wasn't trying (and failing) to open the door – was spraying his fellow travelers with a water bottle.

So Doors Never Open, Right? Wrong.

Does this mean these doors never open in midflight? Unfortunately, no.

Back In 1989, 9-passengers were sucked out of a United plane over the Pacific as it traveled from Los Angeles to Hawaii; a cargo door became unlatched, creating an explosive loss of pressure. This sad incident was attributed to a malfunction in the door's electrical locking mechanism (and that design has since changed).

However, if some disturbed person tries to get an airliner's door open, all the available evidence says – it's simply not going to happen. One less thing to worry about.

Rick Seaney
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