A passenger-operated emergency door on a passenger jetliner in mid-flight has left a mess in its wake, raising questions about how airplane doors can open in the sky. Asiana Airlines, which is estimated to have suffered billions of won in damages from the incident, has decided to suspend all sales of emergency exit seats on its planes indefinitely.

The emergency exit door and emergency escape slide of an Asiana Airlines plane that landed with the emergency exit door open at a mooring at Daegu International Airport on the afternoon of Aug. 28 are seen after being repaired. Yonhap News
How the door opened while the plane was in flight
The European Airbus A321-200, which was involved in the accident, uses the “pressurization method,” or the difference in air pressure between inside and outside the cabin, to open and close the exit doors. The problem is that as the flight altitude decreases to about 1000 feet (about 300 meters), the difference between the air pressure outside the plane and the air pressure inside the cabin decreases, allowing the door to open. In this case, the incident occurred a minute or two before landing, at about 700 feet (213 meters). The flight attendant was also seated in his seat and wearing his seatbelt because he was about to land. However, when flying above a certain altitude, it is virtually impossible to open the door with human power. “The pressure difference is so great that it cannot be done by human power,” an airline official said on Sept. 29, adding, “We know that it takes about 15 tons of force to open it.”

There are two main types of emergency doors on airplanes: the pin method and the pressurized method. The type of door that opened in this case is the pressurized type, which does not have ‘in-flight lock actuators’. The A321-200 is a relatively small and old type of airplane operated by ASIANA, with 14 aircraft operated mainly on domestic routes and short-haul overseas routes. Asiana and its affiliates are virtually the only companies in Korea that own Airbus A321-200s. The A321-Neo, the successor to the crashed plane, is also a pressurized version, but with the addition of a pin device that prevents passengers from manually opening the doors until the plane touches the ground. There is a device on the landing gear at the bottom of the plane that distinguishes whether the plane is on the ground or in the air, and the pin is inserted or removed depending on whether the plane touches the ground or not. All U.S. Boeing airplanes operating in Korea are of this type.

Graphic = Reporter Cha Jun-hong cha.junhong@joongang.co.kr
“Emergency exits should be easy to open… for anyone”
As such, some airplanes have been criticized for strengthening the locks or using a different opening method to make it more difficult for passengers to open the doors. However, airline industry experts and officials disagree, stating that “an emergency exit is only as good as the ease with which passengers can escape in an emergency.”

The idea is that there is no specific opening method that is safer, and each method has its own advantages and disadvantages. The pin method also has a significant drawback: if the pin fails, the door cannot be opened at all. “If the pin fails and it doesn’t come out, you could be engulfed in flames or some other kind of anomaly,” said one aviation expert, “so you can’t really say one is better or worse than the other.”

After billions in losses, Asiana won’t sell emergency exit seats
According to airline industry estimates, the damage caused to Asiana Airlines by the door opening incident will be at least 2 billion won. This includes repairs to the emergency exit doors, including hinges that were bent like fingers, repairs to the emergency ejection slides (airbags that deploy like a slide) that were torn off, and the cost of minor maintenance and non-destructive testing to transport the aircraft from Daegu to its home bases (Incheon and Gimpo). “It is possible that the passenger’s aunt will be able to file a claim for compensation,토토사이트” said several aviation industry experts, “but this will be after the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, and Transport investigates and determines the case.”

Asiana Airlines suspended the sale of emergency exit seats for all 14 of its A321-200s involved in the door-opening incident from midnight on the 28th. Air Seoul, which operates six of the same aircraft, also suspended the sale of seats in front of emergency exits from 0:00 a.m. on the 29th. Air Busan, which operates nine such aircraft, is conducting an internal review of whether to sell emergency exit seats.

As a measure to compensate victims, Asiana Airlines will fully reimburse the medical expenses of the nine passengers who were taken to the hospital. The airline has set up a victim relief center and is accepting online and offline reports of trauma and other after-effects. It has received two cases in the past 28 days. The crew members who were on board at the time of the accident have been relieved of duty since the day of the accident and are receiving emotional support.

A passenger forcibly opens an emergency door over Daegu Airport, causing panic among passengers, while a flight attendant blocks the emergency door with her body. News1

“In the long run, safety enhancement measures such as limiting the sale of emergency exit seats, deploying additional flight attendants near emergency exits, and retrofitting emergency exit doors are desirable,” said Jung Yun-sik, dean of Catholic Kanto University’s School of Aviation, a former Asiana Airlines captain. “In the event of such an incident, passengers are advised to keep their seat belts tightly fastened,” he added.

“During airplane operations, flight attendants have the authority of special law enforcement officers, and passengers are obligated to comply with their requests,” said Hwang Ho-won, professor of aerospace law at Korea Aerospace University and president of the Korea Aviation Security Society. “We need to spread a culture of airplane security, such as strengthening pre-flight education on emergency exit seats.”

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