Could you land a plane in an emergency?

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(CNN) – It’s a nightmare scenario: the pilot of your flight is disabled and someone has to sit in their seat and land the plane. Can you do that

If your name is Darren Harrison, the answer is yes. The pilot of his flight from the Bahamas to Fort Pierce in Florida became “incompatible” in early May, and the single-engine Cessna 208 aircraft was out of control. But with the help of over-the-radio from certified flight instructor and air traffic controller Robert Morgan, Harrison Landed Plane Almost perfect At Palm Beach International Airport.

The incident is just the latest in a streak of equally lucky “talk-down” landings, in which a passenger landed the plane safely off the ground or with the help of someone in another aircraft.

In 2019, flight student Max Sylvester The plane landed During his first flight lessons in Western Australia, the pilot lost consciousness. In 2013, pensioner John Wilde, who served in the Air Force but not as a pilot, safely Brought The plane landed in northeastern England in the dark and after a few unsuccessful attempts. And in 2012 in Wisconsin, 80-year-old Helen Collins, who had little experience piloting, successfully Landed Her husband was flying the plane before he fell ill.

These events have one common feature: they involve all Cessna aircraft.

These small planes are the top choice in flight schools, as they are strong and relatively intuitive for control, and as a result they have become popular among flight enthusiasts.

Critically, they only need one pilot, while larger aircraft have two (or more, in the case of long-distance commercial flights that employ crew rotation). If one of them becomes incapacitated, the other simply handles. In 2009, the Boeing 777 Landed safely One pilot from a transatlantic flight died halfway through, and the other two pilots regained control.

A chilling example

After the pilot became incapacitated, the inexperienced passenger landed the private plane safely at the Florida airport with the help of an air traffic controller. The pilot’s condition is currently unknown. CNN’s Pete Munten reports.

According to Douglas Moss, an FAA certified flight instructor and former United Airlines pilot, it is very difficult to land a plane without experience, it is certainly possible given certain conditions, as the above events show.

First, an inspired person who understands that they are in a life or death situation. Second, take the help of a flight instructor on the radio to talk to them at every step. And finally, some natural talent for controlling a mechanical device.

“For example, being able to quickly adapt and understand the relationship between a plane’s flight control devices, such as radar and throttle control, and their aerodynamic responses,” says Moss. But if any of these conditions are absent, he adds, things can go awry.

According to Patrick Smith, an airline pilot flying Boeing 767 aircraft and author of the popular book and blog “Ask the Pilot”, on large aircraft such as airliners, however, such an excellent view may fall short.

Smith believes that if a person with no flight experience takes control of a commercial passenger plane at altitude, he is unlikely to have a successful outcome.

“A non-pilot has no idea how to work on a communication radio, let alone fly and land a jet,” he says.

The most successful unmanned emergency landings involved Cessna Light aircraft.

The most successful unmanned emergency landings involved Cessna Light aircraft.

Lindsay Parnby / AFP by Getty Images

No passenger has ever landed an airliner, but that’s mostly because no one has ever had to try.

“The closest real-life example of this happened many years ago in Greece, when a flight attendant, who was also a student pilot, took control of the 737 after the rest of the crew and passengers were unable to do so due to pressure. Failure. He could do nothing; The plane ran out of fuel and crashed, “says Smith. 2005 crash Helios Airways Flight 522, in which all 121 people aboard were killed.

The flight attendant, Andres Prodromau, remained conscious using a portable oxygen canister, but entered the cockpit just minutes before the engine flare out.

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A slightly more favorable position would be one in which the plane is already aligned for landing and aligned with the runway instead of the height of the cruise.

“There are still a lot of pitfalls against you, but the results vary from person to person and from plane to plane,” says Smith.

“Where is the plane off the runway in terms of altitude, distance and speed? And how accurate is this guy’s seat-of-the-pants interpretation of what the plane is doing? Most of it will also come down. For luck.”

Does Confidence Help?

The full-spec flight simulator offers a useful test of whether you can land a plane.

The full-spec flight simulator offers a useful test of whether you can land a plane.


What about flight simulation programs, such as the popular Microsoft flight simulator? They can give you an edge, Smith says.

“A skilled-enough hobbyist might save the day. But even the most advanced hobby sims aren’t entirely real. The devil is in the details – there are switches, sequences and system quirks that you don’t really see in them, but the scenarios we talked about. Living can make a life-or-death difference. “

For anyone looking to plan ahead, the Internet is full of resources on how to land a plane, including an entry titled “.How to land an aircraft in an emergency“From the popular guide WikiHow, as well as in detail Video tutorials. It’s hard to say if this can really boost anyone’s chances, but it can definitely boost someone’s confidence.
A psychologist Study New Zealand’s University of Waikato has shown that watching a four-minute YouTube video of two pilots making an emergency landing in a mountainous area makes people suddenly feel better equipped to do it themselves.

Kayla says, “Despite telling us they know that it takes a lot of skill to land a plane. People who saw the video were 28.6% more confident in their ability to land the plane without dying than people who didn’t see it.” Says Kayla. Jordan, one of the authors of the study.

This is due to the fact that while beginners learn little about the complex task, Jordan says, their confidence in their performance increases rapidly, a phenomenon known as the Dunning-Kruger effect.

In studies, this self-confidence bias appears to be worse in men than in women.

“Regardless of whether he watched the video or not, we found that men were more confident in their ability to land a plane than about 12% of women,” says Jordan. “This finding is in line with current work in which men have been found to be more confident in their knowledge and abilities than women, even in high-stakes environments such as competitive running or diving.”

According to Patrick Smith, this is an easy way to test false confidence, and to make sure that a beginner can actually land an airliner, according to Patrick Smith: Use a professional flight simulator, the kind of airlines that train their pilots. .

He says, “Stick the guy in a true, full-motion airline simulator at 35,000 feet without any help and see what happens.” “It wouldn’t be beautiful.”

Top Image Credits: Getty Images by ERIC PIERMONT / AFP

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