How Aircraft Doors Work

During a standard flight, it is important that all doors and assemblies are shut and secured as to protect passengers from the environmental conditions of the surrounding atmosphere. In order to ensure that doors remain closed, many aircraft will utilize a series of mechanical and electrical latches. Additionally, engineers will also often specifically design and shape the aircraft door to take advantage of the difference in pressure between the fuselage and surrounding atmosphere. With the various systems and designs used by aircraft, the chance of an accidental opening is extremely low.

The first line of defense for any aircraft door is its mechanical or electrical latches that secure the assembly in place. These locks are controlled by the pilot of the aircraft who can dictate whether controls are manual or not. This allows them to keep doors secured and locked until the aircraft has safely landed, then of which they can permit a crew member to manually open the door for passengers to exit and enter as needed. In the case of an emergency, pilots also have specific controls for the aircraft door which allows them to operate slides. When an evacuation needs to be made, the pilot can disarm the doors which will actuate the automatic deployment function of the slides.

Beyond the latches that lock the aircraft door in place, pressure also serves as a lock that can be near impossible to fight against when in mid-flight. When entering or exiting a passenger aircraft, one may notice that the door is tapered in shape and swings inwards. This is to achieve a sort of “plug” effect where the door is forced up against a socket when shut to secure it in place. During a typical flight where an aircraft regularly surpasses 18,000 feet in altitude, the pressure within the cabin will be much higher as compared to the outside air due to aircraft cabin pressurization. With this difference in pressure, a large amount of force is applied to the aircraft door so that it is pressed against its socket.

The pressure that is placed on the aircraft door during flight is immense, ensuring that there is minimal chance of it opening even by force. Generally, the difference between pressures can often reach upwards of 55158.1 Newtons per square meter, meaning that even the strongest individual in the world would be unable to pry the aircraft door open with all their strength. Once the aircraft has safely reached its destination and has made a touchdown, however, the pressures of the aircraft cabin and the surrounding atmosphere will be equal so that the door can safely be opened when ready. Once the gate is reached, the pilot will disengage any mechanical or electrical locks so that the crew members can open the door for passengers to exit or enter as needed. With the design and procedures implemented for aircraft doors, passengers can rest assured that they are well secure and safe during flight.


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