Open-Door Policy

An open door in-flight is not an emergency, although it may feel like one. As always, fly the airplane first. Once on the ground, shut it.


The day’s mission was a 1450-mile round trip to retrieve a friend’s son for a holiday visit. My V35 Bonanza had been fueled the night before for an early departure, and the two passengers arrived on schedule. After passenger briefings and an explanation of how to open and close the cabin door, among other items, we launched. 

As we accelerated in initial climb, it became obvious the door wasn’t correctly latched. The departure airport was a bit tight for me under that circumstance, so we slowed down and cruised to a nearby facility with longer runways. Along the way, I cautioned my right-seat passenger to not lean on the door—don’t even touch it until we were back on the ground, in fact—and we made an uneventful landing.

Only after taxiing to the non- towered divert airport’s ramp and shutting down the engine did we mess with the door, opening it fully and securely closing it. I tested it by pushing on the upper and lower latch areas, without any sign of it not being fully closed. After restarting and performing a full pre-takeoff checklist and run-up, we took off again, landing at the destination without any further issues. The trip back home later that day also was uneventful and everyone enjoyed the airplane ride, including the friend’s son, who had never been in a light airplane before.

How the door became unlatched, or was never latched for the first takeoff, still isn’t clear to me. I performed my normal push-outward checks before the first takeoff that day, but somehow missed that the door wasn’t fully latched.

Like many Bonanza pilots, I’ve trained for an open door and flown the airplane to a normal landing with it open. The handling is a non-issue, but the noise, anxiety and confusion argue in favor of a slow, methodical approach to getting the airplane on the ground and the door secured. Over the years, I’ve had many doors and windows open, and the first solution always is to fly the airplane.

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