Here’s What Would Happen If the Plane Door Opened Mid-Flight

You know you've thought about it before.

Delayed flights, crying babies, and cramped seats can make even the sanest flier want to jump ship. But what would happen if they made it to the door and—gasp—opened it? They wouldn’t get too far, writes pilot Patrick Smith on his blog Ask the Pilot.

“You cannot—repeat, cannot—open the doors or emergency hatches of an airplane in flight,” he writes. “At a typical cruising altitude, up to eight pounds of pressure are pushing against every square inch of interior fuselage. That’s over 1,100 pounds against each square foot of door.” Further, the door is held shut by a “series of electrical and/or mechanical latches.”

OK, so that calms our fears of a manic passenger making a break for it. But let’s say someone’s brought their hydraulic jack on board and is able to open the door. What would happen then?

Here's-What-Would-Happen-if-the-Plane-Door-Opened-Mid-FlightMikhail St/Shutterstock

“Anyone standing near the exit would be ejected into the sky,” Smith told the Telegraph. “The cabin temperature would quickly plummet to frostbite-inducing levels, and the plane itself might even begin to break apart.”

In other words, the pressure inside the plane would drop once the sealed plane became unsealed. Most of the time, this happens because of a mechanical failure—not because a passenger with hulk-like strength has busted open a window or door. (These tips will help you survive a plane crash.)

In that case, you’d have about 15 to 20 seconds of consciousness to pull on your oxygen mask. The pilot would likely take the plane down to 10,000 feet—an altitude where most healthy people would be able to breathe—and make an emergency landing.

Still feeling anxious over an upcoming flight? These facts about flying will help you stay calm on your next trip—and hopefully keep you well away from the door.