Why don’t we all admit it? Even though it may seem a bit daft, we’ve all wondered at least one in our lives what would happen if the aircraft hold door opened while the plane was flying. Well, the good news is, it’s impossible! Not just because the aircraft hold doors perfectly seal the opening on the fuselage, but also thanks to air pressure, which pushes on the door with such a force that it’s impossible to open it from inside.
You might have heard about some reckless passenger who tried to open the hold door or one of the emergency exits of an aeroplane. It happened in China to a woman who explained her actions to the flight attendants by saying that she “needed some fresh air”, as the British newspaper the Express reported. That incident happened on the ground and, although it’s very dangerous and against all safety protocols, it didn’t result in any implications.
Aircraft hold doors act as entrance doors into aeroplanes. They’re on the sides of the fuselage and there are various types depending on the aircraft size and model. Most hold doors open towards the outside or the inside, but in some aeroplanes, they open upwards, resting against the ceiling.
Opening an aircraft door is a pretty simple operation and decals offer guidelines for the crew to follow. The mechanism that unlocks/locks the opening of the aircraft door can be manually engaged using either an internal or external handle. At the risk of repeating ourselves, this very simple process is strictly reserved to the air crew and not to passengers. When it’s open, to close the hold door, the crew need to first use their fingers to operate a small lever to remove the lock, pull the door and then push the yellow handle downwards. Interestingly, each hold door has specific sensors which notify the cockpit crew when it is open or closed.
In each hold door for passengers there’s an emergency slide inside a container at the bottom. Once the hold door is closed before departure, the emergency slides have to be activated by pulling a little handle downwards. Before opening the aircraft hold doors, flight attendants need to deactivate the slides, otherwise they might launch as they would during an emergency operation. When the hold door is opened from the outside, the mechanism that deactivates the slides is automatically engaged.
Hold doors also have a special rubber seal which ensures the hermetic closure of the cabin, avoiding pressure changes between the inside and outside of the aeroplane.
Now that you know how they work, you’re all set. We believe that the beautiful part comes after the doors are closed, though… the engines starting up, the adrenaline of take-off, the beauty of the clouds beneath you: this is the magic of flying.