It may sound silly, but when you’re getting on a private aircraft, it’s important to know how to get in it, notes Rene Banglesdorf. Business aircraft have different types of doors, different sets of stairs, and different entryways, that prospective buyers need to consider…
Some aircraft entryways are easier to use than others. It may sound straightforward, but it can be more difficult than it sounds. In fact, a mistake can be deadly, even for the most experienced passenger.
Private aircraft entryways can be tricky to navigate for the uninitiated. Take the Learjet 60, for example. The door has two sections: an upper section that swings up, and a lower section that swings down. When opening the door from the inside, you have to make sure the upper half clicks into place before lowering the bottom section, or the heavy door will slam down (potentially on top of the person trying to operate it). The bottom section has a rope that you have to lower slowly, or the door will slam into the ground, sending whoever is trying to open it to the ground with it.
Some smaller piston aircraft require you to step up onto the wing in order to get to the door. If that’s the case, then Ladies, you may want to rethink the heels and dress you planned on wearing. (The Cessna Caravan and some other smaller aircraft have a ladder that folds down from the entryway after opening the door, which can be difficult to navigate for those in heels, too.)
Though not as easy as some other modes of transportation, private aviation can accommodate wheelchair-bound passengers—like our esteemed Governor of Texas. However, Governor Abbott, like other disabled passengers, must consider the dimensions of the entryway and ease of cabin navigation when selecting an aircraft. Keep in mind, too, that you can arrange for a special wheelchair that’s made specifically to fit into aircraft entryways.
One of the features of the Pilatus that many people enjoy is the versatility of the standard cargo door on the side of the airplane. With seats removed, a standard-sized pallet can be stored inside the cabin with the help of a forklift.
Other private aircraft have the option to replace the standard door with a larger cargo door, too, allowing for easier access for wheelchairs and bulky luggage like artwork, instruments or medical equipment.
For those of you that may be considering the purchase of an aircraft to be used for medical missions, the entryway situation becomes even more important. In that case, you should think about the dimensions of a stretcher and how difficult it would be to navigate through the entryway. For example, Hawker aircraft don’t easily accommodate stretchers due to the location of the galley and storage closets.
Small Margins for Error
In aviation, the smallest of errors can lead to the biggest mistakes. It’s critical that anybody operating the components of an aircraft entryway knows the ins and outs of how it operates.
Several years ago, a line tech local to our area was killed when a King Air pilot gave him the signal to open the door. It wasn’t until the line tech proceeded to unlatch the door that they both realized the cabin had not properly depressurized, and the force of the instant depressurization slammed into the tech and killed him on impact.
These kinds of situations aren’t common, and can easily be avoided, but it’s important to know what can happen and follow every safety rule.
Hopefully the above has highlighted the intricacies of a seemingly trivial matter that buyers should be aware of when considering a purchase. Know your typical mission. Account for the needs of your passengers. And last, but not least, understand the design quirks of an aircraft’s entryway, and how to safely operate the door!