Apr 2024

The Science Behind Getting Sucked Out of an Aeroplane

April 25, 2024
The Science Behind Getting Sucked Out of an Aeroplane

Air travel is considered one of the safest modes of transportation, with rigorous safety protocols and engineering standards in place to ensure passengers’ well-being. However, the fear of being sucked out of a plane mid-flight persists in the minds of many travellers.

While Hollywood movies often depict dramatic scenes of people getting pulled out through a small breach in the aircraft, the reality is more nuanced. In this article, we’ll delve into the phenomenon of being sucked out of a plane, exploring whether it’s possible and what factors contribute to such incidents.

Understanding the Pressurised Cabin

Before delving into the possibility of being sucked out of a plane, it’s crucial to understand the concept of a pressurised cabin. Aircraft cabins are pressurised to simulate conditions similar to those at lower altitudes, ensuring passengers’ comfort and safety during flight. This pressurisation is maintained by the aircraft’s fuselage, which is designed to withstand the pressure difference between the interior and exterior environments.

The Myth of Being Sucked Out

Contrary to popular belief, the likelihood of being sucked out of a plane through a small breach is extremely low. The pressure inside the cabin is significantly higher than the pressure outside at cruising altitude. Therefore, any opening in the fuselage would result in air rushing out of the aircraft rather than passengers being pulled out.

Additionally, the size of the average aeroplane window is relatively small compared to the human body, making it physically challenging for someone to be pulled through it.

Real-Life Incidents and Causes 

While instances of people being sucked out of planes are rare, they have occurred in the past due to specific circumstances. One notable case is the 1989 incident involving British Airways Flight 5390. A cockpit window blew out due to a faulty installation, resulting in the captain being partially sucked out of the aircraft. Miraculously, the crew managed to save him, and the plane made an emergency landing.

Factors Contributing to Cabin Depressurisation

Several factors can lead to cabin depressurisation, increasing the risk of breaches in the fuselage:

1. Structural Failures: Malfunctions in the aircraft’s structure, such as fatigue cracks or manufacturing defects, can compromise the integrity of the fuselage, leading to depressurisation.

2. Bird Strikes: Collisions with birds or other airborne objects can damage aircraft components, including windows and doors, potentially causing depressurisation.

 3. Explosive Decompression: In rare cases, explosive decompression can occur due to events like a bomb explosion or severe turbulence, creating sudden and significant pressure changes within the cabin.

 4. Extreme Weather: Severe weather conditions, such as hailstorms or lightning strikes, can damage the aircraft’s exterior and compromise its structural integrity.

Mitigating Risks and Ensuring Safety

Despite the rare occurrence of cabin depressurisation incidents, airlines and regulatory authorities prioritise passenger safety through stringent maintenance procedures, regular inspections, and advanced safety features. Aircraft manufacturers continuously innovate to enhance structural integrity and resilience against external factors.

Passenger Safety Measures

In the unlikely event of cabin depressurisation, modern aircraft are equipped with oxygen masks that automatically deploy to provide passengers with breathable air. Flight crews undergo extensive training to handle emergency situations and assist passengers effectively.


While the fear of being sucked out of a plane is understandable, it’s crucial to separate fact from fiction. The likelihood of such an event occurring is exceedingly low, thanks to the robust safety measures and engineering standards implemented in commercial aviation. By understanding the factors contributing to cabin depressurisation and the measures in place to mitigate risks, passengers can feel confident in the safety of air travel. As technology advances and safety protocols evolve, the aviation industry continues to prioritise passenger well-being, ensuring that flying remains one of the safest modes of transportation.

Interested in learning more? Browse Tuition Physics’ website for more fun physics facts, including the science behind submarine implosions. You can also sign up for our O Level and IP physics tuition in Singapore. Under the guidance of our physics tutor, you are sure you will ace your future tests and exams.

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