Open door

I had the pilots door open in flight after being distracted by ATC just as I was closing the door before taking the runway. I have no excuse and should not have allowed myself to be rushed. For those who haven’t experienced this, I thought you might benefit from my observations. First, just as the manual says, it is not an emergency and just slow down and land when feasible. In addition to the increased noise in the cockpit, which was mostly canceled by my ANR headset, I felt a mild buffeting vibration. I slowed to 100 knots. No attempt was made to close the door as it would be impossible. It was open about 2 inches at the rear frame. As I was landing and just over the runway at about 70 knots. The door opened to about 6 inches and the airplane wanted to drift to the right away from open door but this was controlled by a forward slip with the left wing slightly down, just as in a left crossswind landing. The tendency to drift to the right continued briefly after touchdown but was easily controlled by brakes.
Has anyone else had a similar experience? Were your observations similar?


I have had two such flights with a door partially open.

On both flights, the lower pin as not properly closed. On the first flight I flew for at least 90 minutes up to 11,000’ without any significant issues or appreciable loss of airspeed. Only a slight draft. I tried to slow down to close it and this only resulted in both pins being open. I landed, and in the flare, the door started to open. Probably needlessly concerned about damaging the hinges if I land with the door open, I grabbed it with my right hand. (Yes, it was the pilot side door, but I needed my left hand to fly the plane.) Other than a really poor landing, there was no problem. I did not notice any drift or sideslip, but I’ll have to admit, the runway was wide and I was momentarily distracted. (I suppose this is a self-nomination for the stupid move of the month club.[:)])

The second time, I elected to leave the door improperly closed. No problems ensued.

My conclusions are that it is difficult if not impossible to close it in flight. If one pin is out, the only issue will be an increased draft, and there si probably no need to land to close it other than environmental factors. If both pins are out, be prepared for the door to open in the flair.

After 3/4 of a 2 hour flight with an instructor along we heard a flapping noise. It took a couple of minutes to find it was the handle of a plastic grocery bag sitting on the right floorboard that had sucked out the bottom of his partially open door. The top pin was secure, the bottom pin was not. After slowing cruise speed, considering our options, and confirming that the manual said to land, we set the autopilot and tried to close the door in flight.
Both pins not secure now… bad decision.
Further attempts by two very strong and determined men at best secured either the top or bottom pin. We realized there was no way we were going to get both pins in and decided there was less noise with the top pin in. I did not notice any effects on landing or any damage from 3/4 of our flight at normal cruising speeds.

Used to fly often with my Tiger’s door (canopy) about 13" open (per POH). Was wonderful - talk about effective air conditioning.[:)]

(Not my Tiger - a new image from from

I made one flight from Willows, CA to Portland Hillsboro OR with the lower pin not engaged. I thought my friend had the door thing down, but only the top pin was engaged.

The only thing noticeable during the flight was that the cabin was cold. I had the heat up full but it was still cold. We both have Bose Aviation X headsets, and did not notice any change in the noise level and no papers were blowing around. On maneuvering for landing at Portland Hillsboro she noticed that she could see daylight at the bottom of the door. I think we were on base leg at the time. Other than the cold and her apprehension at the end of the flight it was a non event.

I haven’t experienced any event with neither pin engaged. I am glad to see that it is no big deal. I am sure that with both pins unengaged that it would be noticeable immediately and a return to airport would be the best choice.

BTW the plane is up for annual at Top Gun and they have a warranty item on the punch list to adjust the passenger door. It has always been a little harder to latch than the pilot’s door, so hopefully the problem will be resolved soon.

The first time I had a door open in flight was in 1973 during my check ride for the CFII. I picked up the inspector in a dual control A36 Bonanza. He had me occupy the left seat and he the right. I did my runup and checked door latched. It was.
We got takeoff clearance and took to the skies. At about 500 feet the door opened. The Inspector popped it on purpose!!!. What a guy.
He wanted to see how I would react in an “emergency”. I reacted OK and passed the check ride but I still think it was a stupid thing for him to do.
I did have the copilot’s door in my Cirrus open at the bottom on one departure from LSE. A friend of mine (a pilot) was in the right seat and while the door looked closed, it wasn’t. I noted no difference in flight characteristics. I simply went around the pattern and landed. Now when I carry a passenger I personally close the right side door from the outside before I get in.

FYI–How common are door problems in GA?–Note FAA accident reports just from one day, from 2/20/04–2 types of planes had their doors blown off.

I had exactly the same experience. It was not possible to close my door in flight.

I took off with the door open on my Piper year’s ago…I had it cracked while taxiing and forgot to close it. I thought I’d try to close it once I hit 1000 ft agl, which I figured would be high enough. As I was leaning over futzing with the door, quite predictably, the airplane suddenly was nose high, rolling off to the left. Instantly, I remembered my instructor’s number one rule: Fly the airplane, first!

It all reminds me of a friend of the family, who years ago took off in his 172, wife and child and luggage on board. The luggage door popped open right after takeoff and their suitcases were falling out. The sad end to the story is that this distraction led him into a stall/spin. He lost his family, but survived himself, with third degree burns all over his body.

For those who have had doors pop open, and other things, you know it’s a non-event. For new pilots, the first time it happens can be startling. Just always remember the first rule of flying…which is TO FLY FIRST.

Upon leaving the Migration I apparently failed to properly latch the co-pilots door but had no indicationof it until almost to Grand Forks ND. I changed the air vents and a few minutes later noticed a banging sound. Knew it wasn’t the engine as the noise was behind us.A minute or so later we saw something beating against the fuselage behind the door. Turned out to be my wife’s windbreaker which was slowly being sucked out the door. It took a bit of effort not to lose the jacket, but we recovered it a made a stop at Grand Forks to refuel & latch the door.
If it wasn’t for the flapping/banging noise, we never would have known the door was partially open. Had no discenrable effect of the flying

N468JP SR20 #1261

I cannot even articulate how quickly my wife would disown me if this ever happened to us. I would have to sell the plane because she would never ever ever get in it again. I am glad she doesn’t read this board because even the thought might ground me. And, she is the most amazing wife a pilot could ever want – she loves to fly with me.

Cirrus better get this one right on the G2.

my passenger side door popped open on final and scared the crap out of me and my girlfriend. it took me awhile to convince her that it must have been something with her headset… :slight_smile:

This happened once in my A36—welcome to airplane ownership. These things happen in all planes.

In reply to:

These things happen in all planes.

This is exactly what I was going to say. I had the door on our club Cherokee pop open on a flight when I was taking one of my salesmen up to Ashland, Lincoln airport. It was about -15 below that morning and we would have been late for a meeting had I landed to close it so we just kept going with an unbelievable wind chill inside the plane. My salesmen could barely speak once we got to the appointment!

In reply to:

My salesmen could barely speak once we got to the appointment!

I hope your salesmen were good at cold calling. [:)]


A few thoughts:

In one of my first lessons , I was waiting in a que for clearance to takeoff at PAO (near Stanford) , when I saw a twin aircraft with a professional crew that had medical service markings on the aircraft. I thought “how much better pilots they must be” as they were allowed to cut ahead of the que. Then I noticed the baggage door was not secured. I told my instructor, he notified the tower and the crew shut down the engine, got out and closed the bagage door…and took out the elevator gust lock they forgot about as well!

Now, whenever I feel rushed to take off, or distracted by passengers etc., I slow down even more and make sure I read each item in the checklist before takeoff.

They probably slow down when rushed too!

In the Cirrus AC, always reach behind the passenger seat to manually feel that the lower corner of the door is seated correctly.

One idea for closing the door while in flight. Gain some altitude, close the vents, slow the AC and slip it so the door is in the quiet side of the slip. I wonder if it will work. Not enough to try though!

In regards to the comments about an instructor on a checkride opening the door, as far as I know every phase check ride includes that as a test item. I think it is a very good idea to do in a controlled environment.

Nobody knows how often doors open because unless there is an accident the event isn’t reported.
In the overwhelming majority of GA aircraft an open door will simply trail in the slipstream and be open a small amount - perhaps an inch. It rarely causes any control issues as long as the pilot doesn’t panic and lose control.

Yesterday at VGT someone in a Cirrus was cleared to takeoff. Another plane let him know the cargo door was open. So he closed it. I know it was a short flight up to boulder city. What would have happened if they would not have let them know? Would it just be pushed shut, or would stuff fly out of cargo? That guy was very thankful to the piper. They were also on an IFR flight plan. I landed just after they departed so I did not know what plane it was a20 or 22. I guess that does not mater. When my cargo door is open I leave the key in it. Just so this wont happen. Don

this is something I fear the most. Even though the door should be forced closed by airflow a banked turn and some loose luggage could send something out that door. results would have to be catastrophic with object hitting rear stabilator. For that reason I, like you, always leave the key in the door when it is open.

I hope everyone in our fleet will be super-cautious about this.