I was watching an Air Safety Institute video called "Real Pilot Story: Cemetery Crash – A near-death experience with valuable lessons for all pilots." It discusses a situation where a 1958 Bonanza crash landed in cemetery due to an engine failure.

At the 2:23 minute mark they are discussing the lessons learned and the pilot states that "I should’ve reached across and unlatched the entry door because that could jam in a landing, and in a Bonanza it’s very difficult to get out if you jam that door."

Is that really the proper procedure in the case of a crash landing? It seems a little strange to suggest that, while trying to land safely, the pilot should pop the cockpit door open.

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    $\begingroup$ Yeah, getting trapped in a burning plane with the door crushed and locked in place would be bad. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 8, 2017 at 21:21

2 Answers 2


As always check your POH for procedures, however most light aircraft call for unlatching the door in the event of an emergency landing or ditching. Two principle reasons: 1. It aids egress, which can be difficult with a jammed door. 2. It allows better energy absorption of the front part of the fuselage, by permitting it to crumple better.


In the 60s with some aircraft (PA28?), it was suggested that not only do you unlatch the door, but to use an object such as a shoe or rolled up jacket to keep the door slightly ajar in preparation for a forced landing. (although I remember that this was something that you'd get your passenger to do, if you had one) This aircraft had only the one door for exit; kicking out windows was never a practical alternative.

Apart from frontal impact damaging the door, if the aircraft should end up upside down, the top of the door of some low wing aircraft curves over to become part of the roof contour & thus could make getting it open (from inside or outside) particularly difficult.

Also, as with everything else in flying, there's a check list. If prepping the door is on the list, you do it, only takes a moment.


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