Monday, September 8, 2014

How to get off the plane for smoke during the flight?

That is a stupid question,- you say. That is not as stupid as you think, - I answer.

Just read two real stories from the press.

Scared tourist 'tried to open plane door for smoke'

A drunken French tourist with a fear of flying tried to open an Australia-bound jet passenger door in mid-flight to have a cigarette, a Brisbane court has heard.

Sadrine Helene Sellies, 34, was placed on a good behavior bond after pleading guilty in the Brisbane Magistrates Court today to endangering the safety of an aircraft. The court was told Sellies was on a Cathay Pacific flight from Hong Kong to Brisbane on Saturday when the incident occurred. She was seen walking towards one of the aircraft's emergency exits with an unlit cigarette and a lighter in her hand and began tampering with the door. But a flight attendant intervened and took Sellies back to her seat.
Sellies was watched closely until the plane landed in Brisbane, where it was met by Australian Federal Police and she was arrested and charged.

Defence lawyer Helen Shilton told the court Sellies had been terrified of flying and had taken sleeping tablets and alcohol before take-off. She had no memory of what had happened on the flight and also had a history of sleepwalking, Ms. Shilton said. Ms. Shilton said Sellies, who did not speak in court and was aided by a translator, probably would have escaped prosecution were it not for concerns about terrorism. But Magistrate Gordon Dean warned Sellies she had to behave appropriately when travelling on an aircraft.

The conviction was recorded against Sellies and she was placed on a $1000 good behavior bond for 12 months. Sellies, accompanied by her husband, declined to comment to waiting media outside court. The couple was on a three-week holiday in Australia.

New York man causes two flight diversions in 12 hours 'because he wanted to smoke' and tried to open the DOOR mid-air

A New York man caused two flight diversions in less than 12 hours after he tried to open the cabin door to have a smoke while the plane was in the air. On both occasions the man had tried to light a cigarette inside the plane before heading for the emergency exit, forcing the flights to divert. The first disruption took place on an overnight flight from Las Vegas to Charlotte, North Carolina, which was forced to land in Albuquerque.

The man, who reportedly spoke with a Russian accent, had been shaking the seat in front of him, attempted to light a cigarette and gone for the door to ‘exit for a smoke,’ said authorities.
The man was interviewed by police and FBI agents but as he had not managed to open the cabin door, he was released without charges.

Following his release the man was booked on to a Chicago flight with a different airline where he repeated his behavior. Passengers reported that the man yet again tried to light a cigarette inside the plane and refused to stay seated. The second flight, to Chicago, was forced to land at Kansas City.

An off-duty federal agent and several passengers restrained the man and the airplane was forced to land at Kansas City Airport at 11.30am. ‘He was just being obnoxious,’ one passenger said. ‘He was being belligerent.’ According to another passenger the man spoke Russian and ‘kept trying to open the exit door to step outside and have a smoke.’ The man was escorted off the plane and the flight was able to continue to Chicago an hour later.

He was yet again interviewed by authorities and released without charges in Kansas City.

Can you open an airplane door during flight?

Checking through these funny stories, I got curious if that is indeed possible to open the door during the flight.

It appears that due to differences in air pressure, it is usually not in fact possible to open an airplane door during flight at normal cruising altitudes, despite what you may have seen in the movies. This goes for all doors of an aircraft, including emergency exit and main doors; you could fuss with the opening mechanism as much as you like, but you wouldn't ultimately be successful.

Commercial aircraft have pressurized cabins to facilitate passenger comfort and so that the oxygen level in the cabin can be easily controlled. Without a pressurized cabin, passengers would need to wear oxygen masks, and they might get physically uncomfortable at high altitude. The difference in pressure between the inside of a plane and the outside essentially seals the doors of an aircraft even without latching, although most planes have pressurized seals as well, for safety. If you tried to open an airplane door during flight, you would find that you would not be strong enough to overcome the pressure differential.

However, on the smaller Commuter airplanes, the door is not a plug type of door, and so relies on lock pins that slide into the door frame on the aircraft to hold the door in place, on these aircraft the door definitely can be opened in flight, with deadly consequences.

What to do if you want to smoke on a plane?

Based on the FAR rules (23.853 - Passenger & Crew Compartment Interiors), you can smoke on your private plane.

If you take such approach, you must:

* Have "an adequate number" of self-contained ash trays.  You don't want flicked ash or a snubbed cigarette to start an in-flight fire.
* Have "No Smoking" signs you can illuminate, if the passenger/crew compartments are separated. This doesn't apply to you if your personal airplane is light single, but if you've got a fancy twin with a curtain or door between you and the passengers you'll need those signs.

For "commuter category" aircraft there are even more requirements. Those requirements don't apply to most "personal" planes, so even though it's probably a good idea to meet some of those requirements if you're going to allow smoking in your personal aircraft they're not legally required.

Sources and Additional Information:

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