Why You Can’t Open An Airplane Door Mid-Flight


This is episode 123 of
“The Twilight Zone,” “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet.” Arguably one of the most iconic episodes of the show ever made, it stars William Shatner as a: Clip: Portrait of a frightened man: Mr. Robert Wilson. Narrator: Bob sees a gremlin
on the wing of the plane and decides the only possible
solution to the problem is to steal the air marshal’s
gun, open the emergency exit, and shoot the thing. Clearly, this scene is complete fantasy. And I’m not talking about the gremlin. There are a couple of reasons why you can’t open an
airplane door mid-flight. The first being: It’s locked. But there’s another big factor that “The Twilight Zone” seems to ignore, and that’s physics. Let’s consult our first
completely reliable source, the episode’s IMDb “Goofs” page. It says the plane Shatner’s flying in is either a twin-engined Convair or a four-engined Douglas DC-6 or DC-7. All of which would have been pressurized. The higher a plane flies, the lower the air pressure outside. And the lower the air pressure,
the harder it is to breathe. That’s because the air is
thinner the higher you go. The molecules are literally farther apart. So there are fewer oxygen molecules in every breath you breathe and less pressure diffusing that oxygen into your bloodstream. Over 18,000 feet above sea level, and our bodies just aren’t
able to absorb enough to keep us functioning. That’s why planes are
pressurized to mimic conditions about 8,000 feet above sea level. It’s a nice middle ground that lowers the oxygen in our blood by only about 4%, which is not enough to really
affect how we function. Modern airlines fly at about
36,000 feet above sea level. If they weren’t pressurized,
it would cause delirium in seconds and knock you
out in under a minute. And the difference between
the inside of the plane and the outside can be huge. Which is exactly where the doors come in. Inside the cabin, 8 pounds of pressure push against every square
inch of surface area. The typical passenger
door is about 6 feet tall by 3 1/2 feet wide. So we’re looking at more than
24,000 pounds of pressure bearing down on that exit. The strongest man alive can
deadlift only 1,102 pounds. “But wait!” you scream
at your computer screen. “This nightmare was at
20,000 feet, not 36,000. The pressure would be lower!” You’re right, but there’s no need to yell. Clip: Keep your voice down. Bob: I’m sorry, I’m sorry. Narrator: The pressure would be lower, but still too much for
a person to overcome, even William Shatner. And the door flying out
into the inky black? Practically impossible on a modern plane. Most passenger doors are tapered, the inner edge being wider than the outer. It’s called a plug door,
and it basically acts like a bathtub-drain stopper, corking the hole without falling through. But what if someone on your plane had Shatner’s superhuman strength? It could cause something called
“explosive decompression.” And it’s the one thing “The Twilight Zone” got mostly right. During an Aloha Airlines flight in 1988, a piece of the fuselage
tore loose at 24,000 feet, leaving “blue sky where the
first-class ceiling had been,” according to the captain. The chief flight attendant was instantly sucked out of the plane
through that gaping hole. Explosive decompression
happens infrequently, but it does happen. A rip in the plane wall, a window cracks, it doesn’t matter the cause. The huge pressure
difference creates a vacuum capable of shooting
anything up to 1,000 pounds out into the sky. And that vacuum effect would last until the pressure inside the cabin matched the pressure outside. So Shatner made a good
call buckling himself in before opening that emergency exit. If you don’t live in the Twilight Zone, your chances of pulling open
an airplane door mid-flight are just as good as seeing
a gremlin on the wing. So the next time you start
getting nervous about it, just remind yourself: Bob: I’m gonna be all right.


100 Responses

  1. smart meme

    February 5, 2020 8:10 pm

    cuz jumping from a plane will be like a tornado hitting you with like 300 mp/h and you will die

  2. Michael Wade

    February 5, 2020 8:11 pm

    Hold up, do they swing into the plane or out? If they swing in, sure that air pressure is going to make it hard to open, but if they swing out, that pressure would assist in swinging it open. Or is the argument that the locking mechanism itself would have the pressure of the door weighing on it, keeping it locked by friction? (Think trying to unlock a deadbolt while leaning against a door.)

    There's a picture in the video that shows a door swinging out, but then says that the "plug door" is shaped with the inner edge being wider than the outer, which makes no sense. Furthermore, if they do swing into the plane, how is that supposed to work with the seats right there?

    This video does a subpar job of explaining all this.

  3. Itchybell games

    February 5, 2020 8:21 pm

    People have already opened the doors midflight, just look at the recent news of it.
    Woman opens door midflight mistaken for the bathroom door.


    February 5, 2020 8:31 pm

    Sorry but, am I missing something? The pressure is on the inside correct? So wouldn't you be assisting that force that wants to open the door? The door is meant to open outwards which happens to be an area of lower pressure. So if unlocked what's stopping it from opening. This video literally just tried to disprove everything I've learned about pressure in school and my life!!!
    High pressure in plane, low pressure outside… High pressure moves to low pressure and forces door open…

  5. StarPerson A

    February 5, 2020 8:38 pm

    Wait, is this actually a video???😂😂😂🤦‍♀️🤦🏻‍♂️🤦🏿‍♂️🤦🏼‍♀️

  6. AIRburst95

    February 5, 2020 8:39 pm

    Ummmm, is it because of the air resistance?

    Pretty sure it’s hard to open the door of a really fast car too, same concept…

  7. rasmus gronvall

    February 5, 2020 9:49 pm

    Wait, they are saying one of the main reasons you can’t open the door is the lower pressure outside of the airplane…which would make it easier to open the door!? High pressure inside, low pressure outside…would wanna suck the door out. Great research tech insider…

  8. Juraj Staresincic

    February 5, 2020 10:57 pm

    But your physics is wrong! You dont pull open a door on a plane, you PUSH it open, and the higher pressure inside the plane would help you do that instead of preventing it..

  9. Mohsen M. Amrei

    February 6, 2020 12:55 am

    You understand that the cabin is pressurized so the force is from inside to outside to open it up 😁. (Although the second reason was okay).

  10. not_halfbad

    February 6, 2020 1:23 am

    What part am I not understanding here. The high pressure is inside the plane and the doors open outward. How does the low pressure outside keep the door closed?

  11. paul kelly

    February 6, 2020 2:46 am

    Tell the staff on Qatar airways this will you, they freak out when you even stand at the doors mid flight

  12. Cant think of name Yeah

    February 6, 2020 3:59 am

    Typo when you guys said the door is 24000psi thats ludacris technically still 8 psi. Just saying.

  13. Imback 2killu

    February 6, 2020 5:02 am

    Yo this video is either for a tutorial for a baby or trying to meet an essay word count requirement

  14. Miami Aviation

    February 6, 2020 12:06 pm

    On a plane gremlin means that there is something going on but the pilots don’t know what is doing it

  15. Miami Aviation

    February 6, 2020 12:07 pm

    On a plane gremlin means that there is something going on but the pilots don’t know what is doing it

  16. Sirius White

    February 6, 2020 12:25 pm

    thanks for your video. Please can you make a video about food auto-immune reactivity testing – such as PEG-400, Zonulin and dairy antibody tests.

  17. Mohammed Khaled

    February 6, 2020 1:14 pm

    But airplane doors don’t open inwards, we will not have to pull but push… and last time I checked… outside air isn’t pressurized but inside air… so I don’t get it… it seems all you have to do is unlock and push and conditions seems to be in your favor no?

  18. Leslie Kim

    February 6, 2020 2:35 pm

    This is quite nonsense. Of course it may cause everyone aboard to soak up out of the plane if you do open a door in mid flight.

  19. Adriaan Joubert

    February 6, 2020 5:08 pm

    You missed out an important factor in your explanation of why you can't open an airplane door mid-flight: the fact that the door opens inwards (or inwards first and then tilted outwards). According to your explanation, if the door opened outwards, then it would be easy to open the door mid-flight, as the pressure differential will push the door outwards. The fact that the door opens inwards must be stated in order for you explanation to make sense.

  20. Guillaume Habarugira

    February 6, 2020 6:14 pm

    All the smart-asses in the comments. 😁

    Up until of recent years, I really believed that you could open the doors mid-flight if you were a mad person and managed to board the plane with a hydraulic wrench.
    The doors locks seems mechanical, but I concluded that cabin-pressure would push enough on the locks that the handle (purposely) would break instead.

    Yeah, my IQ is probably low, or does it?

  21. iVince905

    February 7, 2020 12:21 am

    For those that want to save time: Higher pressure inside the cabin than outside, low temperature. Aircraft doors are designed so you have to pull against the door and you wouldn’t be able to withstand the high pressure forced on the door.

  22. Mimi Lo

    February 7, 2020 6:02 am

    I’m sure everyone knows why you can’t open an airplane door because there is no air and more! And bruh besides why would someone want to open a airplane door high up in the air


    February 7, 2020 10:26 am

    LOL nah, what was happening is shatner took acid before the flight back in a time were you could just bring a gun and he started tweakin 😅

  24. Cem Dönmez

    February 7, 2020 2:27 pm

    Here I am waiting for my flight and Youtube recommends me this!! 2 days ago an airplane crashlanded on airport I am going to fly. Thank you for traumatizing me

  25. Taylor

    February 11, 2020 2:50 pm

    Make a video contrasting MicroLED vs MiniLED because I feel that many people feel that they are the same emerging tech.

  26. William Rodriguez

    February 11, 2020 10:07 pm

    The strongest man alive – and they show Eddie Hall 😂😂😂
    Just because he has the strongest deadlift, does that make him the strongest man?

    Brian Shaw has x4 world strongest man titles – Eddie Hall only one.

  27. gregory grimm

    March 6, 2020 7:46 pm

    The print on the header says you will get sucked out, BULL CRAP, you cannot open that door during flight due to pressure, BE REAL.


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