General Question

richardhenry's avatar

Is it possible for passengers to open emergency exit doors mid-flight?

Asked by richardhenry (12692points) July 21st, 2008

Wondering because of:

Could that guy have succeeded? How destructive would it be to the aircraft?

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11 Answers

XCNuse's avatar

No way that would never happen unless the doors had explosive bolts.

Explosive bolts were first seen on the original dumbbell designs for the rockets back you know NASA… anyways, those were used because a latch system is heavy, and any changes in pressure could make it nearly impossible to open the door.

Even if she was lucky enough to get it open, she would get sucked out or be holding on for dear life and everyone else would just have to put up with the annoying ear splitting sound, and a few papers might go flying but nothing would really happen.

I mean I don’t know how emergency exits work on airplanes, but I’m pretty darn sure they weren’t designed to be opened any higher than groundlevel.

And because airliners are pressurized, the pressure difference would make any ordinary latch system.. non functional.

Even if you could get it started, opening it against the forces of wind going over the body in a low pressure zone would make it.. once again, near impossible unless you’re a hydraulic press.

I’d imagine… i could be completely wrong

gooch's avatar

I belive you can. It would cause a loss of cabin pressure and of course he would have been sucked out.

XCNuse's avatar

@syz.. link doesn’t work anymore.

@gooch, not true, watch the mythbusters show on airline depressurization.
For stuff to be sucked out and to make an airliner crash, something like 50 square feet (that isn’t true lol) or something around that area (basically the size of like.. i dunno, 2 men standing next to each other is about right) is what it would take to actually suck people out.

jrpowell's avatar

Don’t the doors open from the right if you are opening from the inside? At 400 MPH that would be damn near impossible to get to move. Try to open a car door at 100 MPH, it is really hard. (and yes, I have tried)

gooch's avatar

@xcnuse in the 80’s a flight between the Hawaiian islands a jet lost part of it’s roof and a person was sucked out. I remember them nicknaming the airline T-top airlines.

marinelife's avatar

Here’s an excerpt from a site with details:

“Obviously many people don’t pay attention to the flight attendants or read the briefing cards, which explain in detail how to open the doors. You really should know how to do this. But in midflight, no, the doors will not open. That goes for both emergency exits and the main exits. They cannot open because of the outward-acting forces of the pressurized fuselage. The doors always open inward (usually inward, then outward or upward, but always inward first), and a person would not be capable of overcoming this force. So, in other words, the doors can’t be opened until the aircraft is depressurized. You’ll notice that on the sill of the main doors it often says DO NOT SIT. But in fact you could sit there all day, jiggling the handle to your heart’s content; you aren’t gonna get the door open.”

richardhenry's avatar

Thanks guys, great answers. I was assuming the way in which the door was made would prevent it from being opened, and the ‘open inward first’ idea would prevent it from being opened at altitude.

Mechanical locks would be pretty dumb if the liner had to crash land.

@jp: It’s a bit of a different principle on a plane, since the pressure inside is much greater than the outside, but yes, I’ve done that too. :)

aaronou's avatar

We need a volunteer flutherer to take up this experiment and confirm one of the two hypotheses being debated here. Anyone wanna take one for the team?

richardhenry's avatar

JP will do it.

Knotmyday's avatar

Here is an article detailing an incident where the emergency exit door did open while the cabin was still pressurized, although the plane was grounded at the time.
I haven’t been able to find schematics for the door design, but apparently pressurization may not be a factor in the operation of the doors.
Note, though, that the article states that the other doors on the aircraft would not open, and that the door in question opened “suddenly,” expelling the unfortunate gentleman.
That might indicate a structural breach due to overpressurization.
Anyone interested in doing the maths (anglicization @richard), cabin pressure at altitude is generally in the neighborhood of 8 pounds per square inch.

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