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.”

The flight attendant who helped land a plane when co-pilot had an emotional melt down was a hero

If you ever saw the movie Airplane, the spoof on airplane disaster movies, you probably still laugh out loud thinking about it. Remember the scene when Julie Hagerty took over for the co-pilot but had to fight off the automatic co-pilot who was a blow-up doll? She was trying to help Striker (Robert Hays) land the plane.

That was a spoof.

In a real life story, a female flight attendant recently came to the assistance of a Boeing 767 commander after the co-pilot had a mental meltdown. On an Air Canada flight from Toronto to London’s Heathrow, the co-pilot, who had shown up for the flight acting slightly flustered and on edge — not his usual outgoing, chipper self — lost most of his marbles over the Atlantic.

After the co-pilot became increasingly belligerent and erratic, and refused to move from his seat, the flight commander asked the crew to help remove the co-pilot from his seat.

Once the co-pilot was removed — into the capable hands of doctors who happened to be on board — the flight attendant took over the co-pilot’s job. She had a commercial pilot’s license, thus was a huge help to the commander. The flight was diverted to Shannon Airport in Ireland where she helped land the plane. Upon arrival, the co-pilot spent 11 days in a mental hospital before being transported back to Canada.

Although this real-life drama happened this past January, the investigation has just been completed. The commander and flight attendant were found to be heroes, although that term wasn’t used in the official report.

The official report is an interesting read about how decisions are made in the air to keep both passengers and crew safe. It’s a PDF file and was sent along by Gadling’s own Kent Wien who has the insider track to about everything.

These girls were not quite as helpful as that flight attendant. Why not? Click the images to find out!