Most vehicles such as bikes, cars, trucks and buses have keys to start the engine. This makes us wonder if airplanes also have keys to start their engines. Well, the answer to that is both yes and no. That’s because whether or not a plane has keys depends on the type of plane. Let’s take a look at some broad categories of planes and ascertain if they have keys or not.
Glider planes – These types of planes usually do not have an engine. Their take off from the ground is made possible by aerotow or by using a winch. In aerotow method, another aircraft with engines pulls the glider with the help of a strong rope. In winch method, a powerful motor on the ground winds a cable connected to the glider to make it airborne.
As glider planes usually don’t have engines, an ignition key is obviously not required. Even a lock on the cockpit door is not needed, as such planes are usually kept in secure hangars or other monitored facilities.
Small aircrafts – These usually have a seating capacity of around 5-10 passengers with a flying range of around 1000 – 3000 miles. Some leading manufacturers of small passenger jets include Cessna, Dassault, Bombardier, Gulfstream, Embraer, and Sabreliner. Small aircrafts usually come with keys that may be used for various purposes such as opening the cockpit door and powering up the aircraft. Depending on the aircraft, the keys may be used to activate both the aircraft’s engine and electronic system.
Another reason for having keys for small aircrafts is that these may sometimes be parked at places where visual surveillance may not be available. Having keys ensures the safety of such planes. Cases of planes getting stolen are quite rare, but someone can still damage the plane’s insides if the door is not locked. Small jets are quite costly, so having keys does work as an effective safeguard.
Airliners – These are large, long-haul aircrafts used to transport both passengers and cargo. Two of the world’s leading manufacturers of airliners include Boeing and Airbus. These large aircrafts do not have any keys, either for the cockpit door or for the ignition. That’s because the doors and the engine system of these planes are way too complex to be handled by a single key.
For example, a pilot of Airbus 320 has to go through various checklists before starting the engines. And even for the ignition and engine start, everything is controlled via buttons that need to be activated one after another in a predetermined sequence. A key is not required for even the cockpit door, as such planes operate from highly secure facilities. So, chances of any unauthorized person sneaking inside the plane are quite rare.
It’s clear that some planes have keys whereas others don’t. If you are thinking about fighter jets, the answer is that these usually don’t come with keys. You can imagine a pilot searching for keys when he is called to handle an emergency situation. Moreover, fighter jets are parked at highly secure locations, so keys are not required.