Tuesday, 15 January 2013

7. Can You Open the Doors of a Plane In Flight?

I had a great plot line planned for "The Blue Angels" in which Joshua Hayle, the novel's chief villain, throws Frank Quinn (a lapsed henchman) out of his private plane into the sea somewhere between Nunavut and Greenland. As an aside, the fact that this scene was to be set in December makes it feel worse somehow, but I’m fairly sure that the season wouldn’t be of primary concern to poor old Frank as he plummeted to his death. Anyway, I decided to research the issues around this particular plot line to see how realistic a proposition it really was. It turns out that I was right to do so as, for various reasons, it’s not actually possible to open an aircraft door in flight, especially if the cabin is pressurised (as is the case in “The Blue Angels”). The basic reason for this is that aircraft doors are designed for safety and, as a part of this effort, they have to be pulled inwards before they can be opened outwards. With the pressure difference between the cabin and the troposphere being huge (let’s say 8 pounds per square inch just to get a number in) it would take a large piece of pneumatic machinery to pull the door in against the huge weight of air pushing outwards. A human being – even a very strong one – just wouldn’t stand a chance. Of course, this is just one reason the doors won’t open and there are myriad safety systems in play in a scenario of multiple redundancy. It was enough to scupper my plans though. So, it’s back to the drawing board and Frank Quinn lives to fight another day.
On a personal level, I was pleased to learn of this impossibility even if it causes me extra work. Now, if I am unlucky enough to find myself on a plane with a nutcase trying to open the doors, I can scream along with everyone else but know, in my heart, that all he’ll be wasting is our time.


  1. Interesting stuff! I just need to buy one of your darn books. It may be worth getting a tablet device for :-0

  2. When you say 'private plane' do you mean a 'get up and walk around' sort of plane like a Lear or Citation, or a 2 - 10 seater like a Piper or Cessna. I'm guessing the former as you say it's pressurised but even so I'd have thought it possible if it was below 2,000 feet where the pressure differential is negligible, or even 10,000 being the ceiling without pressurisation. You could always consult our mutual friend Wing Commander Shallis.

    Phil: You don't need a tablet to run Kindle - there are apps for Windows and OSX and the beauty of the Kindle system is that if you later buy a tablet all your books will be available there, open at the last page you were reading.

  3. Maybe the lapsed henchman could die from a severe stabbing in the toilet ?