Airplane Departs with Door Ajar

July 14, 2014

in Airplane Stories

One time on my many trips to Japan, I was flying out of San Francisco and was just getting comfortably settled into my seat. I usually sat in the upper deck as this is where all HP employees preferred to sit, and I traveled with them a lot. This trip I was on my own, and of course the upper deck was booked solid with the HPs, so I was given a seat on the lower deck right across from the entry door. I had just settled in and we were starting to take off, when I noticed that the door had not shut. Never having sat in this seat before, my first thought was, “This is why HP always has seats way upstairs.”

I then decided that, as we were not slowing down, someone was going to have to pull the alarm cord. This not being a train I was at a loss what to pull, so I started to get up which alerted the stewardess. She seemed to be afraid for my individual safety and told me to get back in my seat. When I motioned to the door she immediately became afraid for her own safety, and others I am sure. Her quick call to the pilot worked as well as the cord I was looking to pull, and we came to a shuddering, tire smoking stop.

I started to get up to see if I could fix the door. Not knowing my mechanical abilities the stewardess didn’t ask, but told me once again to sit down. I felt I knew what the problem was, as I had helped design the door handle. The lower latch “dog” that was driven home by the handle mechanism had failed to engage. This was an elaborate bit of knowledge to share with the stewardess so I sat down, with the advice that a little WD-40 would solve her problem (guys can fix anything with duct tape or WD-40). I told her that in case duct tape wouldn’t be necessary. I felt rejected by her and decided this was now her problem, and was satisfied to sit with my own thoughts.

The pilot, not wanting to go back to the gate and admit that he tried to take off with his door ajar and a passenger who wouldn’t stay in his seat, pulled off to the side of the road, or whatever aeronautical term they have for it.

Soon the door flew wide open and I saw the tip of a ladder outside the door. There was a lot of conversation filtering up from the ladder, and soon a head with a hard hat appeared. What followed the head was the smallest man I had ever seen. He had on a tool belt full of implements of his trade, which dragged the ground but didn’t seem to impede him at all. Being that the sticky “dog” was at floor level, I assumed they sent him as he would be closer to his work. He took one look, deftly whipped out a can of WD-40, sprayed down his territory, shut the door, opened it and quickly disappeared into the night. His short stature made his exit magical.

The stewardess on her way back to her jump seat said, “You were right sir.” I told her that I was only half right as I hadn’t advised her to summon the dwarf, but I did notice he brought the W-D 40. I believe she wet her pants or something as I didn’t see her again for quite a while.

{ 25 comments… read them below or add one }

Guest July 15, 2014 at 7:24 am

A cabin door will not "fly open" during flight. The design of the door pushes it against the frame of the aircraft. Also if the door hadn't latched correctly, an indication would appear on the flight deck and the cabin possibly wouldn't pressurize.

So I am having a bit of difficulty with this story.


James July 15, 2014 at 8:16 am

If the door doesn't seal properly, it might not be air tight, so the cabin wouldn't properly pressurize, resulting in the flight needing to divert.


Trixi July 15, 2014 at 4:32 pm

And not only that, but there would be a light blinking in the cockpit to let them know the door was open.


JAL Flyer August 13, 2014 at 11:06 pm

I’m going to call bullshit on this story as well. There are indicators at the jump seat that also alert the FA of an unsecured door or condition as well as the flight deck.


Belle July 15, 2014 at 7:39 am

I doubt she wet her pants at your hilarity. More likely she was telling people how disgustingly rude you are.


Jimbo July 15, 2014 at 4:38 pm

Easy there shorty.


Tiago Vieira July 15, 2014 at 9:59 am

The exact same thing happend to me on a flight from Cape Vert to Portugal. The plane abruptly stoped in the taxiway, and the pilot came and closed the door.
Come on, it happened to all of us in our cars…lolol


JAL Flyer August 13, 2014 at 11:08 pm

Doesn’t happen on the plane. Pilots have checklists they go through before, during and after a flight. And, a door open indicator would stop the the plane before push-back. In fact, the main flight computer would not allow a plane to shift from taxi to flight mode with such an indicator.

We’re talking a commercial jet liner here, not a Cessna.


roger dodger September 2, 2014 at 9:48 pm

Hard to believe it happened to someone else, as the litany of people calling bull shit is overwhelming. I believe you. lolol


roger dodger September 11, 2014 at 3:32 pm

lolol: you are awsome


TKTK July 16, 2014 at 11:39 am

I think this story is BS


pete July 17, 2014 at 10:25 am

Interesting story…I was on this same flight and saw the whole thing. Absolutely true. No where does the story suggest that the plane took off. Did any of you guys read the whole story, and see the humor in it? Sad


Milandro July 17, 2014 at 10:06 pm

The story mentioned that the plane wasn't slowing down, and that it came to a "tire smoking stop." There should have been a light to alert the pilot, but let's face it things malfunction, or pilots can miss things. Also, maybe back then the technology wasn't as good.


buster July 17, 2014 at 11:57 am

I’m married to the gentleman who posted this story and can vouch for it 100%. I would also like to point out that he is a plastics engineer specializing in product and tool design. He knows what he is talking about in reference to the door latch and the functionality thereof. If you don’t get a chuckle out of this story perhaps you need vacation…preferably not on an airplane with the door ajar.


JAL Flyer August 13, 2014 at 11:11 pm

And, I’m a pilot for 20 years certified on B75x/B76x and B74x. Cabin door open, wheel breaks, don’t release, flight avionics won’t let the engines taxi, yet alone enter flight mode. You’re dead in place.


Roger Peterson August 29, 2014 at 2:52 pm

Hey;; how could I make up such a story. I don't care what planes you have credentials to fly. You know as well as I do that things happen that are out of the box. This door was chattering , not ajar and all the sensors in the world can fail if thy are given intermittent signals. This happened so quick that the fight attendant jumped to the phone as I was yelling the doors not shut. I am sure that the light came on in the cockpit but I doubt the door is connected to a fail safe switch that shuts the airplane down. We were only a few seconds into take off and not in the tire smoking mode.This wording was used to tell what I thought was funny story,that had duct tape,wd -40, a passenger that loved to solve problems and a dwarf. I had no idea that I had the ability to start world war III from the comfort of my office. I think life is too short to spend the time to calling bull shit on every thing you hear. Except every thing you hear on FOX news. I bet this comment starts a whole new chain
of comments on how my politics suck.

I think I will edit this story down to benign verbiage that will make even sour old ladies crack a smile. Oops now I have got old ladies offended. Will it ever end?


Michael September 4, 2014 at 10:39 am

I call BS on MSNBC all the time so lay off FOX.


roger dodger September 11, 2014 at 3:57 pm

Unfortunately MSN is morphing into FOX..The only thing you can watch and not call BS on is Sesame Street. It is hard to criticize a hand puppet unless you don't agree with their politics,which I am sure some people can find subliminal messages in their banter. At least the FOX and the MSN are up front with their twisting of the facts,and ane not abashed with their interpretation of the truth.


Milandro July 17, 2014 at 9:58 pm

Good story. Who is HP? Hewitt Packard?


roger dodger September 2, 2014 at 9:37 pm

You're the only one that got it. The story is true and funny to me. Can you believe all the bitter and vindictive people out there that will take the time to read ,what is a fun Blog ,then spend the time to call bull shit and pontificating on and on about they flew this and that and know this and that,and this cannot be true. Lets critique the grammar and spelling of people who share their stories, in a constructive way and get a life.

Sad commentary on the human spirit and why the world is full of anger and annalists.


Gregg September 2, 2014 at 10:49 pm

Thanks for sharing your interesting experience!


roger dodger September 11, 2014 at 3:27 pm

You get it. One voice of reason in a sea of disi-inchanted humanity


Krista October 5, 2014 at 8:40 pm

If a 777 can disappear out of the sky (and possibly drastically change course before doing so), then why can’t a plane door not be fully latched and still taxi down the runway? Thankfully a ninja dwarf was on hand to fix it. 🙂


roger October 8, 2014 at 11:58 pm

It’s feels good to know there is someone else out there with a sense of humor


Paul August 18, 2017 at 9:51 pm

Similar happened to me. United B747 out of Newark. I was in exit row, right next to door, which was ajar a full 5cm. Taxiing at speed toward the threshold, I'm wondering when they will close it completely. FLight attendants all in their seats and the door still ajar. Similarly, I stood and walked to the attendants, yelling at me to sit down. They escorted me back to my seat, threatening legal action. Arriving at my seat, they saw the door ajar, closed it properly and went back to their seat. No apology, thank you or even acknowledgement the door was ajar.


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