Pilot's tip of the week

Door Pops Open In Flight


Subscriber question:

"What should you do if a door pops open while you're flying? I've heard different advice on this." - Peter S.


“When an entrance or egress door pops open, my advice to you is to leave the door alone. That’s right. Leave it alone. Don’t try to shut the door. The biggest problem with having a door pop open is being distracted from flying the airplane. And this, of course, can result in an accident.

With the exception of a few airplanes, an open door will not hurt you or the airplane. Yes, it makes a lot of noise, but noise isn’t going to hurt you, nor is it going to seriously affect the performance of your machine. Beechcraft says that you might lose 160 feet per minute in your rate of climb, but that’s nothing to worry about in a Beechcraft. In a Cessna 150, maybe that is something to worry about, but…oh…it’s not. For the most part, an open door doesn’t affect the performance of most airplanes in any significant way. Your objective after the door opens is to land, shut the door properly, then go on your merry way.

I will offer one caveat here. When landing with an open door, be cautious as you slow down. It’s possible that the doors inertia might cause it to swing forward as you decelerate and damage a hinge. If possible, you might have a passenger grab the door handle to keep it from opening during the touchdown and deceleration.

When do you think a door, or a window is most likely to pop open if it was not properly shut? You guessed it. On takeoff when the differential pressures on either side of the door increase. Can you think of a worse time for a door to pop open? I can’t. Taking off is a critical time when a pilot has to pay attention to many things and doesn’t need to be distracted.

So, if you have a door or a window pop open on takeoff, you have two choices. Either abort the takeoff if you have enough runway left or continue the takeoff and return for landing. Since you now know that an open door isn’t going to affect your airplane to any significant degree, you can feel comfortable with the decision to continue the takeoff and return for landing to shut the door.

OK, there are times when it might be advisable to try closing the door as when flying in rain or IMC conditions. The problem is that this is best done when there are two pilots onboard the airplane. Even so, it can be difficult to close an open door in flight. Very difficult, because of the differential pressure on each side of the door. Nevertheless, several airplane POHs have a door closing policy for their airplanes. So, check your airplane’s POH to see if a door closing policy is available for your airplane.”

Have you had a door pop open in flight?

(NEW) VFR Mastery scenario #70 “Next Step, Climb?” is now available. How hot is too hot in an airplane with simple engine instrumentation and showing no other sign of distress? What do you do when the POH guidance provides no useful guidance at all. Is this an emergency, business as usual, or something in between? Watch the Intro video.

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