Keys to the plane

Header photo: Ramon Kok

You would normally insert your key in the ignition to start your car’s engine. The question is whether or not planes use the same sort of system – so let’s find out!

Locking the plane

You do not need a key to open the door of a plane – but it doesn’t mean that just anyone can enter. Starting a plane requires certain privileges, as well as a personalised access card that is issued by the airport. Planes are always parked at a guarded site so as to prevent unauthorised access. In most planes, the cockpit is normally closed due to international regulations, which stipulate that we must take additional mandatory security measures. No unauthorised access is permitted to the cockpit during the flight, and no key is needed either because it has an electric lock.

Starting the engines

When it comes down to small planes, you need a key both to lock and start up the engine. Small planes often have an electric starter motor which is activated by the turn of a key. This doesn’t normally happen with larger planes because bigger engines cannot start on their own. Commercial planes have an auxiliary power unit (APU), which provides the plane with electric power and the air needed to start the engine. This in turn drives the main axis of the jet engines. In order to get this process going, you don’t need a key. All you have to do is press the right button at the right time!