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Let's say an explosion blew a hole in a plane's fuselage without ripping the aircraft apart or damaging the engine and wings. How would the hole affect its flight?

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    $\begingroup$ There's likely be some increase in drag. Beyond that, the effects will depend on the size and location of the hole. Modern airliners can fly with remarkably large holes. See Aloha 243. $\endgroup$ – CatchAsCatchCan Oct 19 at 0:53
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    $\begingroup$ Related:. aviation.stackexchange.com/questions/15813/… $\endgroup$ – yshavit Oct 19 at 0:59
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    $\begingroup$ Some aircraft can lose an entire wing and still land. $\endgroup$ – Ron Beyer Oct 19 at 3:12
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    $\begingroup$ Obviously, there is no safe way to do this. OP should be aware that, with many planes, the fuselage skin is load bearing, along with the frame. A little like saying "can I blow a hole in the side of my house to put in a window". If what you are destroying reduces load bearing safety margins, no, it is not a good idea. $\endgroup$ – Robert DiGiovanni Oct 19 at 11:35
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Most planes fly best without any extra holes, of course! The specific effect of a hole is modifying local airflow, increasing turbulence, and increasing the aircraft's wetted area on the side of the breach.

As long as there isn't a matching hole in the back, however, the airflow inside separates (similar to a pickup truck), so most of the airflow is still normal around the fuselage. The turbulence will also disturb flow over the wing root, if the hole is located forward of the wing, slightly reducing lift on that side. All in all, range will be reduced and more control inputs will be required.

Other than that, a hole in the side does not prevent a plane from operating normally. One can think of a conventional aircraft as the wing, pushed forward by the engine, and stabilized by the tail. The fuselage just connects them together and houses the payload (and controls, but we're not thinking about that at the moment).

Most fuselages are streamlined for minimum drag, but a plane can fly with a non-streamlined fuselage as well, just not as fast and not as far. Fixed-wing gunships, for instance, fly operationally with large holes in their side for the armament.

AC-47 gunship. From https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ac47_05.jpg

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