Passenger Opens Exit While A321 On Final (Updated)


The passenger who opened an emergency exit door in flight in South Korea on Friday had the simplest reason possible for his actions. He wanted off the plane even though it was still 600-700 feet above the ground. Police detained the Asiana passenger after he managed to open a mid-cabin exit on the A321 while the plane was on short final at Daegu Airport. The flight originated on the resort island of Jeju. Authorities said he told them he was under a lot stress and just wanted out of the plane. The crew continued the approach and landed safely. There were 194 people on the plane. The man faces a string of charges. Asiana has stopped seating passengers in exit rows.

It would appear from photos taken on the ground that the emergency slide deployed and was ripped off in the slipstream. Twelve passengers, most of them teenagers, were taken to a hospital after reporting breathing problems but most of the seated and belted passengers suffered only windblown hairdos. The exits are operable at low altitude because there is negligible pressure differential between the cabin and outside air. This video explains the technical details. South Korean officials are investigating whether exit management protocols were being correctly followed on this flight.

Russ Niles
Russ Niles is Editor-in-Chief of AVweb. He has been a pilot for 30 years and joined AVweb 22 years ago. He and his wife Marni live in southern British Columbia where they also operate a small winery.


  1. Always room for a new level of stupid it would appear.

    I found this interesting:

    “Twelve passengers, most of them teenagers, were taken to a hospital after reporting breathing problems but most of the seated and belted passengers suffered only windblown hairdos.”

    Anxiety attack by proxy? Certainty no physiologic reason for this.

    • This site has long been needing an AD on the issue of display names. It seems to allow multiples of the exact same name, or no name at all.

  2. I don’t understand why he didn’t fall or get sucked out? Looks like Airbus needs to go back to the drawing board and idiot proof the doors.

    • Having opened my share of doors in flight, I can see how he wouldn’t get sucked out, especially if cabin pressure was dumped.

      But I always thought the doors were equipped with squibs connected to the landing gear squat switch that armed them on touchdown.

      • I don’t think a switch on the gear would work because the door has to work in case of a gear-up or water landing as well. This is obviously different than Boeing design doors that have to first open inward then fold out into the slipstream, which would be impossible moving at 100+ knots on approach. I agree with Larry that the mechanism seems to have a design flaw if it can open out once the pressure is equalized. It also appears that the passengers and crew were fortunate the departing emergency slide did not foul on the tail, which would have made landing very difficult.

      • I have been retired from airline maintenance for a number of years, but when employed by same, I inspected these exits regularly. The latch handles were restrained with thin copper breakaway wire only and the real protection against idiots came from the thousands of pounds of force that would be required to overcome the normal pressure differential inflight. Of course, the airlines I worked for only flew real airplanes made by Boeing.

      • The ‘gull wing’ upper deck doors on the ‘stretched upper deck’ 747s used an electrically actuated ‘bayonet’ safety latch that would activate at liftoff and secure the door, and remain engaged until 3.0 psi differential pressure if memory serves. On approach it would re-engage at >3.0 psi and remain so until touchdown. This was due to the doors not being ‘failsafe’ against opening until above 3 psi cabin pressure differential. Complex but I’m not aware of one ever opening in flight. I never ‘checked’ the system though:)

  3. About 10 % of the world’s population have some sort of recognized mental illness. I have to think that this person was not acting rationally due to some sort of cognitive impairment.

    I am also surprised that it was possible to open the door given the speed of the airplane. It would seem logical to have a design that could not be opened at flight speeds even with no cabin pressure differential.

    • Excellent analysis. I wasn’t aware of the nitrogen charge to push the door open. I wonder why Cooper vanes aren’t required and if they will be recommended going forward.

  4. As digitized as Airbus (Airbi?) are reputed to be, why not an arming circuit tied to airspeed indication of -0- ?

  5. So true is the old saw that “it’s hard to make things foolproof because fools are so clever”.

    Particularly so in the case of emergency doors because an overriding requirement is that you want them to be openable under almost any circumstances in an emergency, which argues against adding layers of safety features which might be compromised by a crash.

  6. No, the Airbus exit doors have an assist charge on the larger doors to allow them to open in strong winds. Read the briefing card carefully next time you’re on one. If you hang onto the door, you’ll find yourself the first one off – without the slide inflating yet.

  7. A ranger at Yosemite once said (I’m sure has been said many times by others) that it is hard to design a bear proof garbage can that people will be able to use.

    The reason being the intelligence difference between a smart bear and a dumb person is negligible.