Airplane Door Flies Open

March 31, 2013

in Airplane Stories

Many years ago I was getting ready to fly from Frobisher Bay in Northwest Territories to Hall Beach. We were on an Arctic expedition for the International Geophysical Year and had been flying in some very old aircraft during that time. Our whole team was on that DC-3 heading to Hall Beach in the Northwest Territories from where we would take a short hop to the island of Igloolik.

It was winter and very cold. The ground crew spent a lot of time trying to de-ice our old DC-3. When they finally completed the task to the pilot’s approval, off we went. As we were trying to gain some altitude the main door, which was across from me, suddenly flew open. We were strapped in and we were still climbing, having not yet reached 1000 feet. The angle of the plane was such that a lot of luggage in the aisle began to slide back toward the door. I actually, at the request of one of the passengers, tried to grab the bags. I stopped when I remembered that the door was wide open.

The pilot or copilot came running back and asked me to hang onto his arm and reach out of the plane to grab a rope which was attached to the door to close it. I cannot imagine what the hell I was thinking when I even thought about leaning out of the aircraft to grab that rope. Fortunately the guy next to me shouted, “Are you crazy?”

A little light went on in my head and I said to the pilot, “Hey, this is your plane, I’ll hold your hand and you reach out!” He did, grabbing the rope and pulling the door up to close it. When I took my seat again I tightened the seat belt to a point where my legs went numb. This was a flight on the old, long gone Nordair Airlines out of Quebec.

I was young and fearless in those days. I’m 75 now but have never forgotten that trip. In the last few months I’ve been exchanging email with the dental anthropologist whose luggage was in danger of flying out the door. Unfortunately most of the key people have since passed away. The winter and summer I spent with the team was probably the best time of my life.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

James March 31, 2013 at 10:55 am

So, you were willing to let the one guy who knew how to fly the airplane take the risk of falling out? Interesting risk analysis there.

I've had similar; on a flight from Arusha to the Serengeti in Africa, the pilot asked me to sit in the back and hold the door closed because it was loose. Sure enough, it was, I could move it a little and look down. Interesting flight!


chuck harris April 1, 2013 at 6:48 am

Never gave it a thought. Young and inexperienced. It was either the pilot or copilot who was involved. I get a chill whenever I think of that time and what might have happened. Of course that was just the beginning of the life-threatening experiences I had while in the Arctic.


Krista May 24, 2013 at 8:43 pm

I bet a thousand people would do the exact same thing, me included. Oh, the stories you can tell your grandchildren!


Krista May 24, 2013 at 9:11 pm

Oh, wait. You might want to wait until they are out of the adventurous stage to tell them this one. Lol


Roger Peterson September 1, 2014 at 8:49 am

I apologize to all the Little People out there, if i offend anyone.even though my friend Peter Dinklage doesn't mind the term Dwarf. Little People are valuable workers for airline maintenance and Boeing. They can get into the confined spaces in an airplane particularly the tail section.


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