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6 Things That Happen Inside An Airplane During A Rapid Decompression

If something large breaks the fuselage, this is what happens when a rapid decompression occurs within 1 to 10 seconds...

1) Cabin Altitude = Flight Altitude

Within seconds of a fuselage breach, cabin altitude pressure dramatically shifts to ambient air pressure. When flying in cruise at high altitudes, the difference in pressure is the greatest. A rapid decompression could mimic traveling from the streets of Denver to 15,000 feet above Mt. Everest almost instantly.

2) Loud Bang And Wind Blast

During the change in pressure, a loud bang accompanies wind blast as high pressure air escapes the cabin into the low pressure atmosphere. After equalization, wind moving hundreds of miles per hour may enter the cabin through the breach.

El Scrapeo

3) Flying Debris

It's not uncommon for there to be debris flying around the interior of an aircraft cabin, often being pulled close to the breach of the fuselage.

Kent Wien / Flickr

4) Sudden Temperature Drop

Between 30,000 and 40,000 feet (where most commercial aircraft fly), the average temperature ranges from -40F to -70F.

GolfCharlie232

5) Fogging

As air in the cabin rapidly expands, the cabin can fill with fog.

Bryan Burke

6) Rapid Hypoxia Symptoms

Described as "effective performance time" in flight physiology, during a rapid decompression at altitudes above 35,000 feet, you may have less than a minute before cognitive function and motor skills degrade.

Rapid decompressions are uncommon, and flight crews must act fast to don their oxygen masks. Have you ever experienced a decompression? Tell us in the comments below.

Swayne Martin

Swayne is an editor at Boldmethod, certified flight instructor, and commercial pilot for Mokulele Airlines. He holds multi-engine and instrument ratings, and is an aviation student at the University of North Dakota. He's the author of the articles, quizzes and lists you love to read every week. You can reach Swayne at swayne@boldmethod.com, and follow his flying adventures at http://www.swaynemartin.com.

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