What happens if an airliner emergency door is opened while the plane is in mid-air?

Dear Cecil,

Now before you start, i know that it’s impossible for a normal human being to open the airplane’s emergency door while the plane is mid-air (at normal flying altitude) due to cabin pressure.

But who is talking about humans here, hmm?!!
Suppose that the emergency door is opened by some superman. (who interestingly loses all his powers the very next moment so he can’t help the passengers aboard :P)

In scenario no. 2, to make the matters worse, all the engines of the plane fail at the same moment, too.

What are the chances of the survival of both the plane and the passengers in both the scenarios.

Dear Cecil,

Now before you start, i know that it’s impossible for a normal human being to open the airplane’s emergency door while the plane is mid-air (at normal flying altitude) due to cabin pressure.

But who is talking about humans here, hmm?!!
Suppose that the emergency door is opened by some superman. (who interestingly loses all his powers the very next moment so he can’t help the passengers aboard :P)

In scenario no. 2, to make the matters worse, all the engines of the plane fail at the same moment, too.

What are the chances of the survival of both the plane and the passengers in both the scenarios.

Reported: forum change.

probably similar to what happens when a three foot hole opens up mid flight. Of course, the engines didn’t fail.

There’s also this.

Moved to General Questions.

Having a door open in mid-flight would just result in a sudden decompression of the cabin. It wouldn’t suck everything in the plane out of it contrary to popular belief but it would be life-threatening quickly if the plane was an airliner at cruise altitude. The crew and passengers would need to don their oxygen masks quickly to keep from blacking out.

Worse versions of this question have happened in real-life and still landed with most everyone on board still alive. Aloha Airlines 243 for example lost a large section of its passenger compartment in mid-flight and the only fatality was a flight attendant who was sucked out of the gaping hole and fell into the ocean. The passengers all lived.

Losing the engines wouldn’t be a huge problem from a power standpoint. Airliners can glide for about 100 miles in any direction at cruise altitude. However, that scenario could introduce weight and balance problems, hydraulic problems, and structural integrity issues depending on the plane.

Scenario 1 is a bit like this.

Scenario 2 is like this.

Somehow forcing open the emergency doors wouldn’t be any worse than having the top rip off of the plane, and having the top rip off is exactly what happened to Aloha Airlines flight 243 in 1988. The only fatality was a flight attendant who was sucked out through the hole. Everyone else made it to the ground alive.

You add in the complication of engine failure. Planes have crashed with no survivors in this situation, but planes have managed to get to the ground relatively safely with no fatalities as well.

Off the top of my head I can think of U.S. Airways flight 1549, in which the pilot famously told air traffic controllers “we’ll be in the Hudson” (which is exactly where they ended up). I can also think of the “Gimli Glider” which ran out of fuel due to conversion errors between liters and gallons and ended up gliding to a landing on a closed airport that was being used for car racing at the time (no one in the plane or on the ground was killed, amazlingly).


So neither scenario is necessarily fatal.

On preview I see that I need to type faster. Oh well.

Closed duplicate, and one post moved to other thread.

FWIW, I’ve been through an altitude chamber. We were standing around being briefed on what to do if there was a rapid depressurisation (don mask, switch to 100% oxygen). The instructor was calmly going through the routine a second time to make sure everyone knew what to do, when suddenly there was a loud bang as we suddenly lost pressure. Yep, the old lull-them-into-a-false-sense-of-security-and-pull-the-surprise trick.

Nobody was sucked through the valve, and I didn’t feel any breeze. What did happen was that the chamber filled with fog, which makes it useful to know exactly where your demand-oxygen regulator is.

I guess we were busy doing the same thing. Hope it’s all better now. I merged the two threads and deleted one of the OP’s duplicate posts.

Mods, mods.

As noted above, there have been incidents where pilots have successfully glided passenger jets to safety. (See also Air Transat Flight 236.) However, for best results you need to have an airstrip in range. Without your engines, you’re only able to travel a certain number of miles for every mile you descend; this is called the “glide ratio” of the plane. For the Gimli Glider, it was about 12 miles horizontally for every vertical mile.

The reason that I mention this is that I would assume that a three-foot hole in the fuselage would also cause additional drag, thereby reducing the glide ratio of the plane; in other words, you wouldn’t be able to get as far before you crash. So survivability would be worse than “just” an engine failure or “just” an explosive decompression on their own.

It would be more accurate to say “before you run out of altitude.” Provided there is an airfield within your (admittedly restricted) range, you could land there and thus avoid a crash. Alternatively, you could contrive to use a survivable non-airport location.

Everyone remembers the Gimli Glider, but Air Transat Flight 236 mentioned above is an equally amazing example. In some ways more so because it happened in the middle of the Atlantic. They ran out of fuel not due to a metric/imperial flight crew conversion error, but because of one small bracket incorrectly installed on a fuel line by the maintenance crew. They only made it to The Azores because they had changed their flight-plan *before *the fuel leak started, otherwise they’d have had to ditch in the ocean (almost certainly 100% fatal). They also had to land much too fast and blew out most of the tires. And there was a sheer cliff at the very end of the runway! Otherwise, a piece of cake. :smiley:

Reason no one remembers this, obviously, is because it happened a scant two weeks before 9/11…

“Need answer fast.”

There are many mentioning that you cannot open passenger doors in flight, but this neglects that in certain airliners you can certainly open freight doors, particularly if they have been badly designed.

There have been numerous cases of these things going wrong and most famously we’re talking about the DC10 here. See Turkish Airlines Flight 981 for example. Here, while the door was not opened in flight as such, its latch failed. Not such a problem you would think perhaps - erm except that the rapid decompression caused destroyed the flight controls. For more details see the article but the body count was three hundred and forty six.

(My dad’s cousin was going to board that flight by the way, but didn’t for some reason - I forget the reason. His name is Alan and I THINK he was a world ten pin bowling champion, however I don’t know his surname off the top of my head and I can’t find it on google. If anyone knows where to find the info on where a geordie guy was world ten pin bowling champion [and I also understand he has a record for most strikes in a row or something] during the 1970s then I would appreciate the info. I can ask my dad if anyone is interested also)

You shouldn’t be able to open the freight doors. Freight and cargo doors tend not to have any handles on the inside, so the only way they will open is if they’ve failed in some way, like the example you gave.

True in modern aircraft, but it was possible open the airstair on a Boeing 727 during flight. Just ask D B Cooper.