Dead pilot? No problem. How to safely land a plane

Tom’s recap of the recent passenger-lands-a-plane-after-the-pilot-dies story is another reminder to brush up on how to land a plane in an emergency. It’s helpful to remember that principles of physics can be your friend, and planes are designed to fly–and land.

In this article “How to Land a Plane in an Emergency” at wikiHow, landing a plane is explained in seven multiple-part steps.

Remembering Stryker, the character played by Robert Hays in “Airplane” might help. The autopilot, however, isn’t a blow-up doll, there isn’t a button on the control panel that flashes “a little hot,” and the folks in the air traffic control tower who will give you directions on how to land once you contact them, won’t be popping pills or sniffing glue–one would hope.

Here are a few items to keep in mind. Consider these as prereading to help you remember what to do if you ever find yourself winging your way through the sky with only your wits and the help of people below to get you safely to the ground and that stiff drink you might be craving.

  1. There’s a handy gadget called an altitude attitude indicator that will let you know if the plane is flying steady. See photo. It’s that round control with the blue in it.
  2. The stick is called the yoke. Pushing it, pulling it and turning it will help you keep the plane flying steady.
  3. The autopilot will also help fly the plane steady if you turn it on.
  4. There’s a button on the pilot’s headset or on a handheld microphone that you press and keep pressing so someone can hear you say “Mayday” three times in a row.
  5. Saying Mayday three times in a row will let someone know you need help. Plus, it sounds cool. Just like the movies.
  6. To hear someone talk, you need to release the button. When you want to talk again, press the button and hold it down.
  7. The plane has a call signal somewhere on the control panel. The call signal starts with the letter N and is followed by a series of numbers. The call signal will let the people who are helping you land know what kind of plane you are flying.
  8. There is an airspeed indicator that will tell you how fast you are flying. Maintaining the right speed is important.
  9. There are other indicators that may flash on red if there’s a problem. Let the control person know of any indicators that might be red so he or she can tell you how to fix the problem.
  10. There is a small wheel called a trim wheel that can help you keep the plane steady while you are landing.
  11. Some planes have a gear handle for letting the landing wheels down. On some planes the landing wheels are always down.
  12. You use the throttle to reduce power.
  13. You use the rudder to slow the plane down.
  14. Oh, yeah. Make sure the conked out, and hopefully not dead, pilot is out of the way and not leaning on the controls. Otherwise, things could get more dicey than you need.

Make sure you read the wikiHow article for way more detail. I like the fact that remembering to breathe is given as a step. Breathing is a good thing.

If you want to toss in a few lines from Airplane, maybe you can use these.

  • “Have you ever been in a Turkish prison?”
  • “I’m doing everything I can…and don’t call me Shirley.”
  • “Roger, Roger. Where’s our vector, Victor?”
  • “All right, get me Hamm on five. Hold the Mayo.”