Aircraft Doors and Their Maintenance
The modern aviation industry is built upon safety and high-reliability principles. These values are supported by several actions, but most importantly, a thorough maintenance program that encompasses every part of the aircraft. With hundreds of unique systems on a standard commercial airliner, performing inspection and upkeep may seem like an overwhelming task. Still, over the years, the industry has created a systematic approach that reflects best practices. In this blog, we will explore the nuances behind aircraft door maintenance, and why these principal components are integral in maintaining passenger and vessel safety, making their preservation a salient priority.
Since there are several types of doors on most passenger and cargo aircraft, it is critical to review each's location, as well as their general function.
Although some models still incorporate more than one passenger door, most jets only feature one towards the front of the fuselage located on the left-hand side. Depending on the capacity and height of the vessel, the door may be hinged at one or more spots, including the cabin floor or side walls. Those models that hinge from the bottom usually contain integral stairs with handrails. Since many doors are too heavy for strictly manual operation, their systems often contain an assist handle which allows the flight crew to open and retract them effortlessly. In general, the door should open smoothly and gradually, thanks to a gas-spring counterbalance module.
Galley Service Door
Although not found on every aircraft, galley service doors are optional elements found on the forward-right of the fuselage. When implemented, the service door may be used for galley service or as an emergency evacuation route.
Avionics Bay Door
In order to reach many embedded avionics equipment, many manufacturers include a bay door located in the centerline of the forward fuselage. This door is typically spring-loaded and can only be opened from the outside.
Cargo Compartment Door
Although variable in its location, the cargo compartment door is often a large, inward opening element. For most passenger jets, the cargo door will only be accessible from the underside of the fuselage. Some cargo aircraft, such as the U.S. military "C" series, feature prominent cargo doors which also double as a ramp when engaged.
As mandated by the FAA, aircraft are required to contain doors over the wings to allow for an egress route in the case of an emergency. They are located towards the trailing edge of the wing since this surface is safest for passengers to disembark from. Compared to other emergency exit doors, overwing exits are typically more narrow and have less capacity for the number of occupants at a given time.
Regular inspection of door structure and components is the most significant contributor to their operational lifespan. In general, it is critical to visually inspect external and internal surfaces for any signs of structural damage or corrosion. In addition, flight crew personnel should pay close attention to the uniformity of the door when it is completely retracted. If there is any discrepancy with the latching mechanism or flushness with the airframe, it should be immediately documented and reported. During a comprehensive annual or 100-hour inspection, personnel will remove all doors to better inspect smaller components and electronics. Regardless of the inspection type, it is important to have the correct tools and replacement parts.
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