How many people to land a plane?

In this news tidbit, a flight attendant who also happened to be a licensed commercial pilot helped the pilot land a plane after the copilot fell ill.

OK, so what if the flight attendant hadn’t been a licensed pilot? I thought a major point of having a pilot and copilot is that if one of them gets sick or dies during the flight, the other one is capable of landing the plane independently.

Can a pilot and flight engineer safely land a big commercial jet (e.g. 747) by themselves? Can a single pilot do it solo (without even a flight engineer)?

Anyone can land a plane; the tricky bit is being able to so such that you can walk away afterwards. :smiley:

Actually, with the advent of internet access from planes, I wonder how long it will be before cockpits have an ‘Engage remote pilot’ switch for emergencies?

Four to hold the wings steady and Chuck Norris to push the ground up to the wheels. :smiley:

Modern planes are so sophisticated, large commercial passenger planes especially, that they can actually (mostly) takeoff, fly, and land themselves. Many pilots choose to do these things themselves, but in many other cases the pilots are just there to taxi the plane on/off the runway and to back up the auto-pilot.

I’m willing to bet that he let her handle the radios, checklists, clearances and stuff. She probably didn’t actually touch the controls.

No doubt, but was her presence necessary at all? Could the pilot and engineer have taken care of all this stuff by themselves?

Might it be company-policy to see if there is another ~qualified person on-board in such a situation? Kind of a “ask around in case someone can be of decent assistance” checkbox in the company’s go-to checklist/manual?

FWIW, a copilot is required for aircraft over 12,500 pounds gross weight and for aircraft that were certified for two-pilot operations. I think it’s in FAR Part 61, but I don’t have time to look for it now.

As my great-great-grandmother used to say at times like this: Bullshit. From the linked article on, written by an actual pilot, one Patrick Smith:

Over 12,500 pounds requires a type rating, but not necessarily a co-pilot.

I know I already responded to this, but the sheer silliness of the statement cries for additional refutation. Here’s an account of a passenger-pilot being obliged to land a turboprop after the actual pilot died. A quote:

Bolding mine. Note that he had to DISENGAGE the autopilot to land the plane safely; not ENGAGE it. And here’s Patrick Smith’s comment on the incident:

Real-life aviation is not Star Trek.

Would you mind seeing if you can find the FAR that specifies required aircrew? I think it’s Part 61, but it might be Part 23 or 25. IIRC, you fly heavies and undoubtedly have more knowledge of this than I. As a private pilot, I just skim over those parts.

Engineer? There is, generally speaking, no more flight engineer. I don’t know the exact date, but it has been a long time since a U.S. carrier had a three person cockpit.

Could the pilot land on his own? Yes. But having another pilot step in to help would increase safety. The flight attendant was probably able to read checklists and keep a visual lookout. Its kind of surprising that there wasn’t another pilot deadheading.

Meh. Perhaps I WAG’ed before getting the full story, but the fact remains that large high-capacity airliners, unlike the multiprop plane in the above example, are fully capable of landing themselves if need be.

Thus, the answer to the OP’s question would be potentially 0.

The Chicago Tribune’s article has more info - no other pilot on board, her license was out of date but at least she did have some experience. She changed the altimeter settings a few times, dealt with the radio and air-traffic control. The article did make the “plane can land itself” comment but also noted that landing in Chicago is busy enough to make two people up there very useful.

She’s there in case the pilot also ate the fish.

Noooo…not Captain Oveur!

How does a licensed commercial pilot end up being a flight attendant? :confused:

A. A flight attendant takes flying lessons, likes it, and keeps picking up hours and ratings, but doesn’t want to become an airline pilot.
B. Somebody who wants to work in the airlines notices that pilots’ pay is crap but there is a huge backlog of applicants anyway, and decides the cabin is a better place to work than the cockpit.

To expand on what ElvisL1ves said, a Commercial certificate is not an Air Transport Pilot certificate. A Commercial certificate holder might be towing banners or taking people on sightseeing flights, or may be an Instructor or an ag pilot or fish spotter, or a corporate pilot or bush pilot… Some people have ‘real jobs’ and fly in their spare time. A Commercial certificate offers the opportunity to make some money out of a hobby.