This Question came up reading this comment from tohecz on this question: Is it possible to access the baggage compartment in flight?.

No elevator to the cargo deck like in thriller movies? I'm disappointed :( /sarcasm

According to some statements on Internet, there are elevators(lifts) on 747s for persons and carts. 747

  • Does anybody have any evidence or photos of their existence on smaller planes than A380s?
  • How do they work?
  • Do they have an electric-motor department on top (This will take much space)?
  • Where are they going to? Are they going to the personnel sleeping cabin? (On the A380 it makes sense)

personnel sleeping cabin

This one from a A380 doesn't seem for persons?


  • 8
    $\begingroup$ Oh, those sorts of elevators. The first half of this question had me very confused. $\endgroup$
    – Jamiec
    Nov 13, 2014 at 14:30
  • $\begingroup$ they probably use rack and pinion gears to move the cage, much lighter though not as powerful than the counterweight system $\endgroup$ Nov 13, 2014 at 15:22
  • $\begingroup$ @jamiec thanks, I edited it. You were right, question was irritating if you have the tail elevator in mind. Also thanks to ratchet freak for "rack and pinion gears". $\endgroup$ Nov 13, 2014 at 15:54
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ The last picture looks like it is for transporting galley carts. $\endgroup$
    – casey
    Nov 13, 2014 at 16:25
  • $\begingroup$ I recall that some DC-10s had galley elevators as well from my reading of a DC-10 FCOM. $\endgroup$ Nov 14, 2014 at 0:26

2 Answers 2


After researching myself and asking a colleauge I found out that the L-1011(one of my favorites) TriStar

and the DC-10 (thanks to @UnrecognizedFallingObject for the comment) DC10

had persons elevator.

On the Tristar and the DC-10 The purpose are to connect the Main Deck with the personnel-cabin or the Lounge. DC10TriStar Lounge.

The Mechanism as "@ratchet freak" stated in the comment is an "rack and pinion gears" elevator with 1 electric motor with 1 outer shaft (primary) and 1 inner shaft, as stated in an report of an incident with one of these elevators.

On the A380 there is an elevator to connect the 2 main decks, but this one is only for trolleys.



Additional Information on mechanism of elevator:

Drive System

Each lift is operated by an independent drive unit. Each drive 400-cycle, three-phase, alternating current (AC) motors. Each motor is connected to a gearbox with counter-rotating drive shafts and sprockets for a chain drive. The drive shafts are operated by a common worm gear within the gearbox. In the event of one motor failure, the other motor will drive the lift at half-speed. Two, independent, continuous loop, bicycle-type chains taking power from the dual-output sprockets on the drive units actively drive each lift.


Limit Switches

The range of travel of the lifts is controlled by limit switches installed within the wire duct attached to the forward side of one of the vertical lift tracks. There are two sets of two limit switches for each lift: one set located in the service center and one set in the lower galley. One switch is a normal stop switch and the other limit switch is for overtravel in the event the normal switch fails to operate. The limit switches are actuated by a cam plate mounted on the side of the lift. The cam plate has a machined offset to prevent actuation of the overtravel limit switch unless the normal switch fails to operate. In addition to the limit switches, mechanical stops are installed in the vertical lift tracks to stall and shut off the gear motors if both limit switches malfunction. ElectricSwitches

Further and detailed Information can be found here in this Incident.

  • $\begingroup$ In my opinion the 2 linked Incidents also show that they are not really safe, probably that's why on the A380 they only made a Trolley-Lift. $\endgroup$ Nov 14, 2014 at 14:04
  • $\begingroup$ and they were never meant for people, I seriously doubt any sane person would use them to transport people except in dire emergencies. $\endgroup$
    – jwenting
    Nov 14, 2014 at 14:34

I worked as a mechanic on 747's for Pan Am and several other airlines and never seen a people elevator in any of the 747's I worked on.

Ironically today ( Oct. 21, 2020) I was looking at accident/incident reports on the NTSB's website and ran across a report of an accident where a flight attendant was seriously injured in an elevator accident on a 747 in 1988. https://app.ntsb.gov/pdfgenerator/ReportGeneratorFile.ashx?EventID=20001213X27351&AKey=1&RType=Summary&IType=LA

Freak accident due to poor design. She entered not realizing the elevator was not on her floor. Just then another flight attendant entered the elevator from the upper deck and proceeded downward when she heard the screams of the flight attendant below her and stopped the elevator before it crushed the flight attendant . The attendant below suffered spinal fractures and cuts.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Your submission is more like a comment than an answer, but I'm curious about why you never saw a lift on planes that are known to have them. $\endgroup$
    – Erin Anne
    Oct 21, 2020 at 5:31
  • $\begingroup$ While I agree with @ErinAnne, it does, in a round-about way, answer the question by stating that 747s have elevators, since there was an incident involving people in the elevator. Could do with a strong edit to highlight the answer portion. $\endgroup$
    – FreeMan
    Oct 21, 2020 at 10:59

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