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  • You're sitting on a plane trying to relax when a terrible thought crosses your mind:

  • What would happen if that airplane door opened?

  • Commercial airplanes pressurize their cabins to match the atmospheric pressure of 8,000 to 10,000 feet above sea level,

  • even though the cruising altitude of the plane you're in is 30,000 to 45,000 feet in the air.

  • As altitude increases, atmospheric pressure decreases.

  • This is due to Earth's gravitational pull on the air molecules in the atmosphere.

  • The closer to the Earth's surface the stronger the force exerted on these molecules.

  • If the door were opened the plane would depressurize in less than 0.5 seconds.

  • Unless your seat belt is fastened you and any loose objects would immediately be ejected due to the difference in pressure.

  • During such a scenario survival rates are very slim given the possibility of the entire plane breaking apart.

  • Because the air is substantially thinner at high altitudes there is substantially less oxygen.

  • A gradual decompression in the cabin will cause the oxygen mask to drop from above

  • and on average you have 18 seconds to put the mask on before hypoxia kicks in.

  • Hypoxia occurs when oxygen levels decrease, causing symptoms of nausea, dizziness and unconsciousness leading to death.

  • The oxygen reserves on the plane would last for only 10 minutes.

  • Enough for the pilot to descend rapidly to 8,000 to 10,000 feet

  • to match both the internal and external pressures and give you hope for survival.

  • Freaked out yet?

  • Don't worry, the chances of the door opening are so small

  • because there's eight to ten pounds of pressure exerted on every square inch of the plane.

  • Remember there's more pressure inside the cabin than outside.

  • Using the largest commercial airplane the Airbus A380 as an example,

  • the main door measures 4288 square inches,

  • meaning a 38,592 pounds of force would be required to even begin to open it.

  • To compare this would be equivalent of you trying to move 3 African bush elephants -

  • the largest land mammals on earth.

  • Additionally, plane doors are almost always electronically locked by the pilot

  • through functions accessible only from inside the cockpit.

  • And to ease your worries more:

  • It would also be nearly impossible for someone to punch and break through an airplane window.

  • These windows can also be made with up to six layers of various types of strong polymers and are bulletproof.

  • Furthermore, these windows are almost always rounded to decrease drag while in flight,

  • thereby preventing cracks and decompression.

  • You're more likely to die in a car than during aviation with a 1/114 chance of car accidents compared to 1/9821 for air travel related accidents.

  • So fasten your seat belts, pay attention to your safety videos, and above all enjoy the flight.

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You're sitting on a plane trying to relax when a terrible thought crosses your mind:

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B1 US plane airplane oxygen pressure door atmospheric pressure

What If Your Airplane Door Burst Open Mid-Flight?

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    Samuel posted on 2018/02/21
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