It happens a few times a year—a flyer freaks out and tries to open the emergency exit mid-flight. It’s scary for everyone onboard, and it conjures up nightmare images of people and suitcases getting sucked out of the plane.
But is it even possible to open the door on a plane during a flight?
Airline pilot Duke Armitage told SmarterTravel, opening the door while a passenger jet is mid-flight is “impossible.” Once the aircraft cabin is pressurized, Armitage says, “You’d need more than 20,000 pounds of force to open the door at a typical cruise altitude.”
Pilot Patrick Smith agrees, explaining in his Ask the Pilot blog, “Think of an aircraft door as a drain plug, fixed in place by the interior pressure. Almost all aircraft exits open inward. Some retract upward into the ceiling; others swing outward; but they open inward first, and not even the most musclebound human will overcome the force holding them shut.” Even at a low altitude, Smith says, the pressure is still too much for anyone to overcome.
Although attempting to open an emergency exit during a flight will be futile, anyone who tries it will still face serious consequences. Anyone who tries it will be forcibly restrained for the remainder of the flight, and then promptly arrested and taken into police custody upon landing.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) recently levied fines of around $80,000 for two flyers who attacked crew members and passengers before trying to open the cabin door.
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