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There is a little door on the upper deck above the cockpit: KLM 747

Source: Airliners.net, (modified to indicate location of hatch).

What is that door? What is its purpose?

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Is it really necessary to edit a 28-word question twelve times? – David Richerby Mar 12 at 18:12
up vote 65 down vote accepted

It's an emergency escape hatch. There are inertial reels in the cockpit ceiling adjacent to the hatch to allow the cockpit crew to exit the airplane. See this link for an account of their use escaping the aircraft during a hijacking.

There were five reels in the 747-100/200 aircraft. The cockpit had five seats: pilot, co-pilot, flight engineer, and two observer seats.

It's also sometimes used in third world countries to send a guy out to clean the cockpit windshield. In Mumbai I once made the mistake of asking the windshield to be cleaned, thinking, of course, they'd do it with a cherry picker. Much to my surprise, bare feet appeared at the top of the windshield followed by this poor fellow who was maneuvering into place to clean the windshield. He had a rope tied around his waist, but had he fallen it would have been bad because the rope was anchored through the hatch, which meant he would have swung badly had he fallen.

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Nitpick: the aircraft in the picture is a 747-400 and has a cockpit crew of two, not three. The article you linked is 30 years old and describes a 747-100. – Nate Eldredge Mar 7 at 4:21
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@NateEldredge Whislt the minimum cockpit crew for a 747-400 is two, it is very common to have three people on longer flights. Even on shorter flights KLM often has a junior "co-co-pilot" on the 747. – DeltaLima Mar 7 at 8:34
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It took me several minutes of horrified contemplation before I realized that this hatch was only meant to be used while the plane was not in motion. – Crashworks Mar 8 at 0:24
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@FreeMan This was a freighter sitting on the cargo ramp at Mumbai, then called Bombay. Freighters had the cockpit door removed so the cockpit and the upper deck were one area. Behind me there was typically lots of activity what with the loadmaster and ground personnel finalizing paperwork. Also, it was not uncommon for the f.e. to open the escape hatch, which was basically opposite him, to get more airflow. This guy backed down over the windshield from the top, so the first I saw of him was the bottoms of his bare feet at the top of the windshield. It was a different world back then. – Terry Mar 8 at 16:27

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