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wgallios's avatar

Could a passenger land a commercial airplane?

Asked by wgallios (1768points) September 18th, 2010

You always see it in movies, but could a standard passenger (no flight experience) actually be walked through the process of landing a commercial airplane, say a 747, safely?

Or is it simply too much?

Observing members: 0 Composing members: 0

12 Answers

Austinlad's avatar

Only if he were wearing rubber undies. But seriously, I doubt it, no matter how many video games he/she had played.

Seek's avatar

Honestly, if you’re careening to the ground uncontrollably, it certainly will not hurt to try.

Gamrz360's avatar

No, this isn’t Grand Theft Auto.

dinneland's avatar

Yes. Probably. No.

Ben_Dover's avatar

Especially if the passenger’s name is Mitty!

marinelife's avatar

Here are instructions on what to do if you find yourself in that situation.

Here’s the story of a man who landed a twin-engine plane. he had a private pilot’s license though.

Here is an article asking the same question in Slate and it suggests that it would require a lot of luck to have it end successfully.

LuckyGuy's avatar

Yes. It is 2010. Here’s what you need to know to turn on the auto pilot.
You want to give control to tower. They’ll take care of it for you.

bobbinhood's avatar

MythBusters says it could happen:

Myth: An untrained civilian can be instructed how to successfully land a plane over the radio.

Status: Plausible

Description: Based off of multiple airplane movies, this myth posed a challenge to the Mythbusters because they could not afford to test it using real aircraft. Instead, they used a NASA simulator. For their first test, both Adam and Jamie decided to see if they could land a plane unaided. However, since both Mythbusters had no flight experience and had no idea what most of the instruments and controls did, they both were forced to crash land their planes. In their second runs, a licensed pilot give them instructions via radio. With this help, both Adam and Jamie were able to land their planes safely. However, even though the test was a success, the pilot pointed out that most modern planes are so advanced that their autopilot systems can literally land the plane by themselves, negating the need for a civilian pilot. This information, coupled with the lack of any recorded incidents, led the Mythbusters to declare the myth plausible.

rooeytoo's avatar

GA for an interesting question.

My answer is: I have no idea and I hope to hell I never have to find out.

wolfram's avatar

Even professional airline pilots do not fly the planes like they did years ago—computers do. Jet aircraft have servers aboard and pilots are discouraged from flying manual because the computers can fly the craft via auto-pilot and save fuel. An aircraft is basically a fuel tank with wings so saving fuel is critical to the success of an airline. The auto-pilot can also land the plane.

wmspotts's avatar

I’m an airline pilot licensed to fly the Boeing 747, 757 and 767. Contrary to popular belief airliners are not able to takeoff by themselves with automation. When visibility is very very poor SOME aircraft have autoland capability. However, the pilots must be thoroughly trained on setting up the aircraft for such a procedure and the runway you’ll be landing on has to be certified and specially equipped to handle an autoland.

As far a non-pilot passenger landing a commercial airliner I would say that anything is possible but chances are not that good. If successful it would probably be very ugly to watch. Most pilots get their basic skill set flying small, piston powered aircraft and slowly work themselves up to larger and more complex aircraft so that by the time they’re at the airlines or flying corporate jets flying has become second nature. Even then, each new jet must be specifically trained on in flight simulators and with significant ground instruction. It takes approximately 8 weeks for a commercial pilot to train in a new aircraft type (such as moving from a 737 to a 757 or A320).

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