How to board/exit commercial jets without a jet bridge?

Air Force One appears to be equipped with a staircase that can be deployed from the lowest deck so the passengers can board/exit without requiring the use of an external jet bridge. See first pic in this article.

Is this true for all 747s, and/or all commercial passenger jets? If not, how can commercial jets be boarded (even if only by crew) without the use of a jet bridge? Surely there’s some kind of hatch on the bottom of the plane, or in a landing gear bay?

There are roll-up staircases they push up to the usual exit door. Or sometimes the rear exit door. It’s more common for smaller jets, but I’ve used one even on a big jet.

I suspect that this is the answer for most commercial passenger planes.

Three years ago, I was on an American 757 which suffered a lock-up on one of its landing gear brakes while being backed out of the gate at O’Hare. The plane literally could not move due to it, and we sat in the apron just outside of Terminal 3 for over two hours, while the maintenance crew attempted to get the brake unstuck.

Eventually, they decided that the plane wasn’t moving in the near future, and they got the passengers off of the plane. Apparently, they really dislike having people get off of a plane at ORD via anything other than a jetbridge, and the sense we got was that there was some back-and-forth between the airline and ORD, but eventually, they brought an external staircase for us to disembark. They had firefighters and police lining the staircase, and making a cordon to route us from the bottom of the staircase to a bus, which took us back to the terminal; they obviously didn’t want people wandering off.

It’s a classic photo op - standing on the top landing of the rolling stairs and waving to the crowd. Any movie made before some date featuring aircraft will show one. Coming through the corridor of a jet bridge does not make a good photo.


Youtube video of 737 airstairs deploying

Some major international airports like Paris’s Charles de Gaulle don’t use jet bridges, or at least, transfer between the airplane to the terminal is routinely by bus. I’ve taken transatlantic flights via jumbo jet to and from CDG, and that’s the system that was used. So I presume all passenger jets need to have the option of using stairs available.

CDG is close to the top of the worst airports I’ve ever experienced. Not realizing that was the system used, I once arrived there in February without having an overcoat with me on the plane (I was coming from Panama and flying to Africa) and nearly froze to death on the bus.

I like flying in and out of Comox, B.C. on Westjet - they rollup ramps to both the back and front doors for loading, unloading. Really quick.

I don’t know if Westjet does that for it’s other jetway-less airports.

The last time I flew into Gainesville, Florida they offloaded us by stairs. Additionally, it was drizzling and their were hostess-type people with umbrellas to keep us dry.

Plus of course the other classic photo op

Sorry, I should have ruled that out in my OP. I’m wondering how you access the interior of the plane when there’s no ground support at all.

In what circumstances would a 747 land in a place where there is “no ground support at all”?

You suggest that there might be a hatch in the belly of the plane, or in the landing gear bat, but accessing that is going to require some kind of mechanical lift. Any place that has a lift is probably going to have a rolling staircase. In the case of an emergency landing in a place with no facilities at all, they could deploy the emergency slides.

At one point, going from the terminal to the airplane at Washington Dulles Airport was via a bus-like vehicle. It may still be the case, but I haven’t flown through there in a while. And also, until recently the airport in San Jose, California didn’t have jet bridges, so you had to exit the terminal and then walk up one of those external staircases to board the plane. I was amused by this, because even many third world airports had jet bridges but the airport in the high-tech capital of America did not. (On the bright side, sometimes, they’d have external staircases at the front and back of the plane, so disembarking was faster, which I appreciated when I was seated at the back.)

All commercial planes I have flown have emergency ways of getting from the landed plane to ground. I don’t see a need for the mentioned steps. However ‘Airforce One’ - the plane designed for the president’s transport is also intended to be a emergency airborne command post as such may need to land in places were a ramp is not available and need to take off again without dealing with emergency ramp refitting, so I can see that this would be unique in these stairs.

A ladder. It’s not considered a best operating practice, though.

According to Wiki, some are still in use, and I used one the last time I was through Dulles a few years ago. At least in my experience, however, you did not board them directly from the plane. Instead you debarked using a normal jetway, and the lounges transported you from the remote concourse to the main terminal.

Judging from the article I linked to in my OP, that would be China. :smiley:

Frankenstein Monster’s video shows one solution used by the 737. Googling on “737 stairs”, I found this:

I can understand that the weight is a disincentive.

Supposing access via a landing gear bay, I can imagine an array of hand/foot-holds being built in to allow an airline employee to climb aboard without a ladder. This wouldn’t incur much weight penalty (but the access hatch itself would).

As for a belly hatch…I remembered a security incident from many years ago, and it took me a bit of searching, but I finally found it:

Whether the ladder constitutes “ground support” or not is kind of beside the point. I’m basically wondering how someone might get on/off one of these jets without it being parked next to a jet bridge, and without having to roll up a giant, heavy set of stairs that may or may not be available.

Kunilou, it looks like that ladder (in your first link, anyway) is for accessing the cargo hold. Is it common in commercial jets to be able to reach the passenger deck from the cargo hold?

Some (if not all?) old 727s had their own built in staircase that dropped out of the rear fuselage. I got to use one once on a Frankfurt to Munich flight.

Well, there’s no ground support for a visit by a US President. A regular flight wouldn’t have had a problem. :wink:

I think that the rear airstair was standard on the 727. I remember disembarking from a 727 using it, probably sometime in the early 1990s.

(And, of course, the rear door on the 727 was how D.B. Cooper made his escape.)

I see that in the second link “Aero Contractors fined millions for allowing passenge to disembark with ladder”

A quick check tells me that 1m Nigerian Naira is around $2,500, so not that bad…