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Passenger Opens Door on Asiana Airlines Aircraft Mid-flight
A passenger onboard an Asiana Airlines flight was arrested on Friday after opening an Airbus A321’s emergency door mid-flight. The man was taken into custody after landing at Daegu International Airport, and all passengers and crew onboard survived. Roughly a dozen passengers received medical treatment for minor injuries.
The aircraft was coming into land when the incident occurred. The aircraft was under 1000 feet from the ground, and cabin crew was slow to respond due to the imminent landing. Passengers recount that the man tried to jump from the plane after opening the door.
“It was chaos with people close to the door appearing to faint one by one and flight attendants calling out for doctors on board through broadcasting,” one 44-year-old passenger told Yonhap, adding they thought the plane would blow up.
Video of the incident has since circulated, showing high winds entering the cabin from the open door as the flight continued toward landing.
A statement from South Korea’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, and Transport said that, under the Aviation Security Act, any passenger who improperly operates doors, exits, or equipment inside an aircraft could be sentenced to up to 10 years in prison.
Geoffrey Thomas, an author at AirlineRatings, told CNN that it’s technically impossible to open airplane doors inflight due to the airstream flowing around a flying aircraft. The Airbus A321 lands at roughly 150 knots, so this plane was almost certainly flying at or above that speed when this incident occurred.
“The airplane is automatically set to adjust the pressure of the cabin according to the altitude of the aircraft,” Asiana Airlines said. “When the aircraft is high up in the air, it is impossible to open the door but when the altitude is low and close to landing, the door can be opened.”
Asiana Airlines A321 lands safely at Daegu Airport in South Korea after the emergency exit door was opened by a passenger on approach. 9 people taken to hospital with breathing difficulties. pic.twitter.com/Jzed4PMDvc
— Breaking Aviation News & Videos (@aviationbrk) May 26, 2023
Opening Aircraft Doors Inflight
Jet engines compress air and send it into the cabin to pressurize the passenger compartment. The pressure differential between inside and outside air, as well as the aforementioned slipstream, make it physically impossible to open an airplane’s door in flight. But as planes come in to land, the pressure differential of air inside and outside the aircraft is slim, eliminating that factor in the physics of opening plane doors.
At a normal cruising altitude, there are eight pounds of force against every square inch of a plane’s interior, per the Washington Post, which equates to about 1,100 feet of pressure against each square foot on an emergency door.
“Just by pure pressure alone, the force required to open the door would be astronomical,” said Bob Thomas, an Assistant Professor of Aeronautical Science at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.
The pressure on an aircraft drops closer to the ground when the pressurization inside the aircraft decreases to more closely match air pressure on the ground.
“This individual appears to have been able to open a door on approach,” said Nick Wilson, an Associate Professor of Aviation at the University of North Dakota. “At a lower elevation, there’s less differential pressure. That would be one of the important factors that allowed this door to be opened at all.”
Though very infrequent, there have been incidents where unruly passengers have tried to open aircraft doors in flight. Two such incidents occurred in the United States in 2022.
Even with a door open, aircraft are structurally sound and safe at low altitudes like this.
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