Home Travel Do You Need A Key To Start An Airplane?

Do You Need A Key To Start An Airplane?

by SharonKurheg

Say you’re a pilot and you’re going to be flying today. You get to your plane and are ready to go inside it. Do you need a key to open the cockpit door? And what about the ignition? Do you need a key for that, to start the plane?

It turns out that the answer varies, depending on what kind of plane you’re talking about. However, the reason for their respective yes or no answer is usually based on safety and how the plane works.


Gliders are small and are usually stored in locked hangers so there’s little chance of their being stolen. So they don’t have any keys to open the door. And, since gliders generally don’t have motors, they don’t need a key to start them running.

Small Planes (i.e. Cessnas, etc.)

Cessnas and other small, privately owned planes are often stored outdoors, sometimes for days, weeks or possibly months at a time, which leaves them at the mercy of thieves. Maybe not so much theft of the entire airplane (although it apparently occasionally happens), but at the very least, of contents in the pilot or passenger area, as well as the luggage compartments. You know, just like a car. So, just like a car, small aircraft have a key to unlock the cockpit door. Cessnas and other smaller aircraft also usually use ignition keys to start the engine, just like a car.

Large commercial planes

Commercial jets have no keys.

When not in use, they’re stored either by attaching them to jetways (where there are LOTS of security 24 hours a day) or leaving them in a locked hanger. Either way, the chances of theft are minimal, so they have no keys to open the door.

When you want to start a commercial plane, you press a few buttons, turn a few knobs, pull or push a few levers and/or switches, and the engine starts. No key is necessary. Click here for a video with more information about how to start a jet engine.

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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary

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