We will be cursing at 30,000 feet.

The scene is trite. Pilot and co-pilot are dead, 240 innocent lives are at stake. The stewardess takes over and, with some timely advice and coaxing from the tower, safely lands the plane and saves the day.

Now, I’ve been in a cockpit of a 747. Buttons, dials, levers, doodads, thingies, you name it. It’s not a sight for the technically squemish. Is it at all possible for someone unaquainted with piloting an aircraft to touch one of these monsters down and bring it to a halt? Setting aside the panic factor, doesn’t it take just a little more know-how than being familiar with the refreshment trolley and the (general) direction of the emergency exits?

Absolutly not. It would be very reasonable for a unexperienced person to land a major airliner. They basically fly themselves. A unexpierenced person landing a Cesena 182 is another story, but landing a 747 in nuetral weather conditions is quite easy given a step by step explanation of the necessary buttons. The problems arise if the plane has mechanical problems, weather concerns, and crowded airspace to deal with. I will asure you that 98% of the instrumentation is there to indicate mechanical problems, weather radar, and TCAS. Assuming the tower has cleared all traffic, guided them to the airport (very easy with the current avionics), and there were no major weather issues (they likely wouldn’t send him/her to a airport where there is), and the plane is working well (not a easy assumtion based on your typical airplane movie) anyone could land the airplane.

The facts expressed here belong to everybody, the opinions to me. The distinction is
yours to draw…

Omniscient; BAG

Well, in case of a VERY automated airplane like an A320, B777, B747-400, etc., omniscient is right. Ironically here the problem would be for the “hero” of our movie, to know how to use a microphone and the speakers (or headset), and the radio control unit in order to be able to receive all the information needed. And of course, you’d also need to have an expert on the other end of the line to explain everything to the soon-to-be-hero rookie.

It’d be SCARY, but possible.

BTW, Omniscient, you are needed in the thread about B747’s rolling and looping (IIRC you are trained in Aeronautics, right?).

I was just there, and you’ll notice that I firmly insert my foot in my mouth. :slight_smile:

Good point about that radio thing. I kinda depends on the timing of mishap. Usually the pilot would be tuned into the local airspaces frequency, but that may not apply in commercial airline traffic.

My theory on how things would work out just fine. First anyone who was bold enough to sit in the captains chair would be able understand the placement of the headset. Would the person be able to key the headset? I figure that if a Stewardess was there she would know how to do this either thru training or just observation. If no Stewie, then the plane woule eventually enter the controlled airspace of a airport and the tower would frantically be trying to get in touch with the pilot. Assuming the hero is wearing the headset, they would be talking into the mic to no avail, and beging looking for how to transmit. Assuming nothing is labeled, the hero would likely find it in the most logical place (on the yoke, if 747’s are like single engines), or possibly the tower would offer instruction on a lucky guess. My vote, happy ending!

The facts expressed here belong to everybody, the opinions to me. The distinction is
yours to draw…

Omniscient; BAG

Fuck hypotheticals - Did something like this ever happen in real life, not just in some disaster movie? If art indeed does immitate life, there should be records of civilians or non-pilot airline personnel landing a commercial aircraft, so does anyone have any details?

Oh, and you guys piss me off since I was thinking of this while on a plane this weekend and wanted to come here and post it. Bastards! :slight_smile:

Brian O’Neill
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ICQ 35294890
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[Note: This message has been edited by Nickrz]

You guys gotta get a spell check in here! I came onto this thread thinking it would be about unruly international passengers getting dumped at Bangor or foul-mouthed flight crew or something but nooooo, you gotta start talking about Cindy the flight attendant saving the lives of assorted dignitaries and a Boy Scout troop. Pfah! I hate you to pieces! :wink:

Cave Diem! Carpe Canem!

I was also wondering if that little faux pa was intentional or not.

I saw a program on pbs where a plane landed itself. A passenger jet. The pilot was in close attendance, but assisted in no way. I’m sure he had to flip a switch, but couldn’t this be done from the ground?
There was also some discussion about the possibility of crewless cargo planes.

Work like you don’t need the money…
Love like you’ve never been hurt…
Dance like nobody’s watching! …Unknown

Probably not to soon from now mangeorge, I still remember Airbus’s attempt at a computer controlled take off…BOOM You are supposed to fly over the trees at the end of the runway, not through them… Mind you, this was a French attempt, so not too surprising. :stuck_out_tongue:

>>while contemplating the navel of the universe, I wondered, is it an innie or outie?<<

—The dragon observes


During WWII, there were several cases where a navigator, bombardier, or crew chief was “talked down” when the pilot and copilot were wounded or killed. I suspect that that is where the idea came from. The earliest fiction where I saw this was Alex Haley’s Runway Zero Eight from the late 1950’s. He had the decency to make the hero a former Spitfire or Mustang pilot–of course, his Vickers Viscount had no computer aids. (In fact, Airplane! followed Runway Zero Eight so closely for the basic plot that I suspect Haley got royalties for it.)


I realize this is going to sound like an urban legend but I remember hearing it on various news shows when it happened a few years back. The pilot of a small private plane had a heart attack and was either incapacitated or dead (I don’t recall). The sole passenger had no idea how to fly a plane or operate a radio. So he called 911 on his cellular phone! They patched him (I think the passenger was a man) through to a local airport and successfully instructed him on how to land the plane. I believe the event was later re-enacted on the TV series Rescue 911.

Mike, I remember the same story a year or two back. I think it occured around the Great Lakes somewhere. Unfoutunately, I have no idea how to verify that, but I definately remember something to it, and I’m pretty sure it wasn’t a UL.

The facts expressed here belong to everybody, the opinions to me. The distinction is
yours to draw…

Omniscient; BAG

Great, now Satan’s mad at me, too.

As for the thread title - yes, 'twas intentional. I do know how to spell cruzing, you know. :wink:

Ok, so is it safe to assume then, barring perfect weather conditions, that the passengers are bye-bye? And a related question: If an air disaster is the result of an act of (insert deity here), do the families still have grounds for a lawsuit?

Actually that French Airbus crash was the result of the human pilot being unable to override the ‘fly-by-wire’ system, which was determined to overshoot the runway during a test landing. It’s a remarkable piece of video, as the jet calmly, gently sets itself down in a forest. I believe that the few people on board were killed.

There were similar problems with the Airbus’ ‘fly-by-wire’ wonking out and putting the plane in a nose-down configration–IIRC this was the cause of a crash in (?) Iowa, but a (?) German pilot was able to correct after diving about 20,000 feet. I dunno–I’ll risk pilot error myself, at least on most major airlines!

I do not count Aeroflot in that number–remember the crash a few years back that killed 200-odd people, because the pilot had let his 8 year old kid take the controls?

Narile: please don’t spread Urban Legends here!

Airbus NEVER tried a “…computer controlled” take off like the one you wrongly describe. The accident you are (probably) referring to, was due to an unfortunate error during a demonstration of the automated systems of the newly developed A320 in an air show.

The A320’s autopilot cannot be engaged after take off before reaching a certain altitude, or being on the air a certain time. Take off has to be performed manually.


It is ALREADY possible to remotely control an airliner, but it hasn’t been done because of safety issues. And of course, passengers feel safer having a living human being in the cockpit (or so I like to think :slight_smile: )
Autolands (that’s how we call them) are very common depending on the circumstances. Pilots DO have to be in close attendance, and have to take over in case of any malfunction, and also after landing and stopping, in order to at least taxi to parking.


If an air disaster is the result of an act of… well… Nature, the passengers can sue Nature if they want. The airline’s obligation is to pay insurance coverages, no more. That’s one of the reasons why in some countries where lawsuits and liability issues are common (any resemblance to any country you know ;), is a mere coincidence), “people” fight as hard as they can to find a “guilty” one. If there’s no one to be blamed, how are they going to get their money? And I will make no more coments about this because I’m starting to get pissed off…

Oh, and yes, in case both pilots die, chances are that unless there’s another pilot onboard, passengers can kiss their a… goodbye.

Men will cease to commit atrocities only when they cease to believe absurdities.

Rodd Hill:

Wrong on all counts, buddy!

The system involved in the French Airbus accident was NOT the fly-by-wire system. And not all te passengers died. Actually, most survived.

And the Russian aircraft accident was NOT due to the kid being seated on the captain’s seat. The poor kid just happened to be there (which is wrong and illegal) when a failure ocurred.

And also, the “fly-by-wire” system does NOT put airplanes in a nose down situation without the pilot giving it a prior command.

Here’s an interesting address for all of you who want to learn more about aviation accidents:

Men will cease to commit atrocities only when they cease to believe absurdities.


You mean TV lied to me? Say it ain’t so, Joe!

E1skeptic -

What is the probability of your average bug smasher driver being able to bring it down safely ? Assuming some basic OJT from the ground while inbound of course. Remember to flare at what seems like pattern altitude, spool up time, flap & power settings, thrust reversers, tillers etc. I would assume that most commercial flights would have several passenger/pilots that could at least keep the thing upright until the FAF. Could they make it from there ? Also, could I log it as PIC time :wink:

A point in every direction is like no point at all

I just wanted to reiterate the fact that I would feel quite certain that a average person who had the slightest concept of flight dynamics could land a standard 747/777. By slightest concept, I just mean he/she needs to know back on yoke=nose up. and I don’t think perfect weather conditions are necessary, just conditions withing the plane saftey margins. They really are pretty generous too. I know a person would have a real hard time negotiating a quartering tail wind, or a no flaps landing. I think mechanical problems are a bigger concern than weather. And a safe landing doesn’t require a perfect landing. I imagine that the psuedo-pilot could hammer it into the runway and bottom out the olioes and still land safely, probably even land nose gear first and pull it off.

Obilo, if you can’t log it as PIC time, I’d be mighty pissed. The man’s keeping us down. The airline may charge you flight time though.

The facts expressed here belong to everybody, the opinions to me. The distinction is
yours to draw…

Omniscient; BAG

Rodd Hill: I like your sense of humor! Did you check the “Aviation Safety” page? Hope you like it.

Oblio: Let’s assume the most benign scenario (without pilots-passengers). The only “thing” missing in our scenario are the pilots, everything else (weather, systems, engines, etc.) works perfectly, ok?

Most modern commercial carriers are capable of performing automatic landings, and stop before the end of the runway. But a number of switches, levers, and instructions to the navigation and performance computers have to be activated, positioned, and selected in order to land safely. (Plus the knowledge of how to operate the aircraft’s particular two-way radio)

My guess is that your “average bug smasher driver” wouldn’t hold a chance landing a commercial carrier manually. But an autoland…? well… maybe.

If he manages to make contact with the Control Center, and they have an expert pilot available, and the aircraft has enough fuel to remain on the air while all the instructions and familiarization with cockpit is being done and continue its flight to an airport with the necessary facilities (an ILS is needed, without it, forget it!), I’d say that our “hero” has a good chance to make it.

I shouldn’t take more “post space”, but here’s a rough list of the actions that need to be taken:

*set runway to be used (in the computer)
*set approach procedure
*set performance data
*set altitude (continuous changes through all the procedure)
*set flaps
*set auto/capture (for the ILS)
*set landing gear
*set braking system
*apply reverse thrust once on the ground
*apply parking brakes once fully stopped
*shot engines down

Phew!!! I got tired.

Obviously all this would be easier for a trained Commercial Pilot. But I decide to have you as the “hero”. :slight_smile:

And if you can make it, I’ll personally see that you log it as PIC!

See ya’