You're exactly right that because of the
pressure difference between the inside and outside
of the plane there is a force trying to rip the
To answer your question, think about a balloon.
The pressure difference will make a balloon first
expand and then explode as you increase the
pressure difference. The same thing would happen
to a plane if the pressure built up enough.
Because of the lives at stake (and the several
hundred million a 747 costs) great care is made
to keep the plane structurally strong enough to
take that force.
Each part of the plane is designed to be strong
enough to be stable despite the high pressure
difference. Next time you fly, look at the
thickness of the doors and windows. Both are
significantly thicker than what would be in your
house. Additionally they are made of special
types of materials that are stronger than
what you would find in most places.
Similar to an aquarium, which often have even
greater pressure problems, high flying planes use
thicker and a stronger type of glass to overcome
the pressure. Planes will still expand slightly
like a balloon, just not enough to make the plane
One example of this is the billion dollar
stealth bomber. According to a friend's father who
works for Lockheed, the plane doesn't fit all that
well together on the ground. Yet once it gets to
altitude, which is much higher than commercial
planes go, the plane expands slightly causing all
the pieces to fit together perfectly. If they
didn't build it that way, when the plane expanded
they could buckle off a few pieces.
Hope that answers your question.
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