Every once in a while you hear about that jokester: the moron who thought it would be funny to open the emergency exit when the plane is in air. Fortunately, the pressure of wind-blast usually will prevent the door from opening very wide.

The last time this happened was in May 2016, when a female passenger on a Sydney to Avalon flight dashed out of her seat and tried to open the latch on the emergency door. She was arrested upon landing, and her motives remain unclear. 

The good news is that on a standard commercial Boeing 757, it is extremely difficult to get the hatch open. The mischief-maker will likely yank the handle of the door before they are able to break the wind seal. Aircrafts that are designed to open mid-flight (like those used for parachuting) usually have specially constructed doors that are able to withstand the pressure, both for opening and closing.

This is because once the hatch IS open, which can occasionally even happen by accident, it is almost impossible to get closed again. This can be very scary and distracting, and even cause accidents.

The worst thing that can happen is something called “explosive decompression,” and it is exactly what you might think. People can get sucked out the hole, and parts of the aircraft can become seriously damaged. Dozens of examples of this have been recorded over the years, and the results are never pretty.

On a side note: a related dangerous thing that can happen mid-air is something called “slow decompression.” This happens when a small air leak gradually affects the pressure inside the cabin. This happens about 40 to 50 times a year, and is one of the leading causes of airplane crashes. This is why airplanes are equipped with oxygen masks.

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