by Jan Meyer
In-flight doors are great. Planes fly better with the door on because it reduces drag. Doors make the ride up faster and more fuel efficient. The ride is quieter and less windy. Doors are most appreciated in the colder months. However, all is not well with doors. Some jumpers and pilots give doors a lot of abuse.
Be gentle with aircraft doors. They protect you from the elements and keep jump rates down by making the climb to altitude more fuel efficient. Treat an aircraft door as part of the aircraft, after all it is part of the aircraft. You don't go around banging on wings and fuselages, so you shouldn't bang doors into the wing, aircraft interior or other objects. A simple inspection of an aircraft's interior or wing underside will indicate how careless most jumpers are about handling the door.
Pull-Out Doors: These doors are the type that you need to pull-out of the door frame. Generally, these doors are found on larger aircraft, e.g. Twin Otter, Beech DH-18, DC-3. After the door is pulled on jumprun, it must be stowed. Removing the door varies from plane to plane. Some doors have latches. Check with local jumpers for the best way to remove the door, (top then bottom, forward then aft or ?) Carefully move the door, sliding or rotating it, into position for stowage. Keep adequate clearance around the door. Avoid slamming the door into the interior walls, people's feet or gear, etc. Pay particular attention the top and bottom of the door, as these are the edges that will 'catch' most easily. Fasten the keepers for stowing the door.
Sliding Doors: These doors slide in a track along the fuselage on the inside or outside of the plane or the track may be on the interior ceiling. Sliding doors are very easy to operate
Just twist the handle to unlock the door and then slide it along the track. Be careful not too slam the door into the end of the track.
Wing Doors: These doors open out away from the fuselage and rest against the underside of the wing when open. They can be found on C-182s. This type of door is easy to unlock and open with the help of your pilot. Opening the door in straight and level flight can jerk the door from your hand, tend to pull you out the door or slam the door into the wing. This can easily be avoided by asking your pilot to put the plane in a slight left slip as you unlock the door. The slip relieves some of the air pressure on the door. The door should open about 6-10 inches. As the pilot returns to straight and level flight, the door will 'fly-up' under the wing by itself because of the aerodynamic forces. You don't have to push it up at all. The door won't slam into the wing as long as your pilot makes a smooth transition from the slip to straight and level flight.
Non-Rigid Doors: Cloth doors or flexible doors are sometimes used as temporary doors. These doors are usually easy to manipulate and easy to stow. Check with local jumpers for operation and stowage. Be careful not to rip cloth materials. Flapping cloth can dent or break aircraft surfaces. Duct tape can be used as the standard quick repair.
Doors are part of an aircraft. Respect them as you respect the rest of the aircraft. Careless door handling could cause minor damages. Negligence could lose doors and other crucial aircraft structures.
Originally published in Sport Parachutist's Safety Journal,
V2, #1 Sept./Oct. 1989.
Dedicated to enhancing sport parachuting safety by disseminating information about equipment, environments and human factors.