What If the Door Comes Open During a Flight Lesson?

Know what to do when and if it happens.

The most important thing to remember in a door-opening scenario is to just fly the airplane. [Shutterstock]

Question: I am a recently soloed student pilot, and the loss of the door plug from the Boeing 737 Max 9 has me wondering what I'm supposed to do if it happens to me when I am flying solo? Do I declare an emergency? Will I get sucked out of the airplane?

Answer: As with most training aircraft, your Pipers, Cessna 100 series, Cirrus SR20/22s, and Diamonds are not pressurized, so there won't be an “explosive decompression.” That's not to say it won't be loud and startling if it happens. It will.

The most important thing to remember is to fly the airplane, especially if it happens on takeoff. Don't try to reach over and close the door. If you have a runway ahead of you and can safely land, do so. If you are out of usable runway, fly the pattern and return for landing. Once you are safe on the ground and at a full stop, close the door. If you are at a towered airport, letting ATC know you have a problem can be beneficial as it will likely give you priority if able. As far as declaring an emergency, if you feel your life is endangered, then do it.

You won't be sucked out of the airplane if the door pops open, since you're wearing your seat belt, per FAR 91.107, aren't you? That’s not to say loose objects like sunglasses, cellphones, or sectionals won’t get pulled out. Arrange your cockpit accordingly to prevent this from happening.

Meg Godlewski has been an aviation journalist for more than 24 years and a CFI for more than 20 years. If she is not flying or teaching aviation, she is writing about it. Meg is a founding member of the Pilot Proficiency Center at EAA AirVenture and excels at the application of simulation technology to flatten the learning curve. Follow Meg on Twitter @2Lewski.

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