Wiki on how to land an airplane

April 1, 2009 by Mike Collins

My wife loves to read online wikiHows and subscribes to a newsletter that delivers a “how-to” of the day.  She forwarded me yesterday’s, which was “How to Land an Airplane in an Emergency.” No, this isn’t an April Fool’s hoax–you can read this wikiHow here.

Is it any good? I felt the text was well organized but, as you might expect, the topic was greatly oversimplified. My guess is that much of the information came from one person’s limited experience. For example, step #4, “Call for help on the radio,” tells you to “Look for a hand-held microphone, which is normally to the left of the pilot’s seat just below the side window, and use it like a CB radio.” The handheld mics I’ve seen to the left of the pilot’s seat usually are in a storage pouch on the door, often buried under the POH, not even plugged into the aircraft.

Comments can be found on the wiki’s “Discussion” tab and there was a lot of speculation as to whether somebody without at least some piloting experience would have any hope of landing an airliner. Frankly, I think a lot of that is academic; today, if both pilots of an airliner are stricken, it’s unlikely that any passenger would be able to breach the hardened cockpit door.

Read the Wiki and share your thoughts. Personally, I’ll continue to recommend the Air Safety Foundation’s Pinch-Hitter course, which is also available online.

8 Responses to “Wiki on how to land an airplane”

  1. Adam Wilson Says:

    Usually, the lead FA has the door key as well as the pilots. The pilots have to get their coffee somehow! As for actually landing the plane. In planes equipped with autoland, its not very hard, tune ILS, anti-skid to auto, auto-throttles on, all autopilots on, sit back and watch (obivoiusly that is generalized as each procedure is different per plane) a relatively competent pilot rated in that airplane could easily talk an FA (mostly likely to be doing the flying in this unlikely reality) down over the radio. Landing a commercial jet without autoland is a bit trickier, but again with a competent pilot on the radio not impossible, mostly because large jets are flown by the numbers and not by the seat of the pants as us GA guys are used to. Arguably, the hardest pinch-hitting is a GA landing due to the wide range of aircraft and possible avionics configurations (G1000, Avidyne, Round-dial, etc). It would be considerably harder to find someone who could talk you down unless you where in a very common type, like the 172. But ANY of these eventualities is far perferable than running out of fuel at cruise while you freak out. At least you tried. :)

  2. David Says:

    Perhaps in a plane with a parachute, if the nonpilot can get the plane lower and upwind of a large open area, one could simply pull the mixture and activate the chute.

    As far as the wiki entry, one important omission…”administer first aid to the pilot, if possible, once immediate control of the plane is obtained.” Getting the pilot back is the best bet. Move the body from the pilot seat? What a joke, as far as small planes. It’s more like, “if you’re in the other front seat, it’s your problem now!! P.S., pressing on a pedal will not slow down the plane. xoxo”

    Hopefully, a GA pilot would have done a minimal show-and-tell with his front seat passenger before flight, as far as use of the radio, use of the trim, throttle versus mixture (‘do not touch the red lever’), the yoke and pedals (including brakes on the ground), attitude, and identifying the autopilot if available. Half the fun of flying is showing guests around a cockpit, anyway.

    Seems to me that after checking the basic attitude of the plane and watching the trim for signs of autopilot life, the first task is trimming for level flight and taking care to avoid the pedals when panicking about everything else. A quick survey outside for potential obstacles might be in order, as well. As far as making quick use of an autopilot, with most configurations, someone may as well be hoping to turn on a VCR and have it show the correct time, much less accomplish anything.

    Regardless of its usefulness, the wiki entry serves as a reminder for GA pilots to consider the unexpected contigencies when bringing along nonpilots, and to use safety as an opportunity to introduce someone to the aircraft and basic principles of flight.

  3. John Pugh Says:

    Type size too small to read

  4. Jean Paul Says:

    Wow! Mr Wilson lives in a dream world. Just waiting for that call from United to step into the left seat. Anti skid in auto? What’s that about? Is anti skid ever in “manual”? Auto throttle on? What is the auto throttle tracking? Is the FMS set up for the proper ILS? Do you know the flap schedule? Does this plane autotune the nav radios? What about the HSI bearing? If you don’t get ” Flair Armed ” the auto pilot will disconnect at the last minute and you will kill all on board. I only flew airliners for 20 years so there is a lot I don’t know. What I do know is it’s much easier to land by hand VFR then to learn to land 0 0 with the autoland.

    By the way Adam, the new doors have no keys. The FA will not be able to help you. Getting coffee is almost a thing of the past with two FAs being required to open the cockpit door.

  5. tom shappell Says:

    As a 45 year commercial GA pilot, I’ve never flown an airliner; BUT, it would seem to me, that in the very rare occurance of ‘dual-crew failure’, this would be a time to have one of the major avionics firms certify an ‘autoland’ that could be totally controlled from ground, by a competently trained pilot. This would not only give comfort to future passangers, but assure all that any nut-case who would somehow disable the crew, would not be able to override the system, and they would be helpless to destroy the plane. A bank-type cockpit entrance (two sealed doors w/airlock) would also trap the ‘nut’, and render he/she helpless, while the passengers take their ‘gin & tonics’ in realitive comfort!! Just an idea……

  6. David Says:

    My big concern about a fly-by-wire capability from the ground is that
    (1) It isn’t by wire, it’s a party line over the airwaves
    (2) The plane is then subject to hijacking by any one of 6 billion people rather than one or more of the screened passengers who might pay with his life for doing the wrong thing
    (3) It is one more complicated system that can fail mechanically or be corrupted by accident or intentionally through malicious programming, etc. There are already industry complaints that overly computerized aircraft are causing problems such as the AirBus incident in France when the throttles wouldn’t respond to pilot input during a fly-by, and possibly the AirBus that was landed on the Hudson River, perhaps after engine sensors hastily shut down the engines when a Boeing might have labored onward despite some engine fouling.

    All that compared to the unlikely event of an incapacitated crew, no pilot, etc., and these days, hijackings are practically impossible because passengers now would assume the worst and do anything necessary to stop them, which of course, should have been the rule previously.

  7. Dvortygirl Says:

    Hi, and thanks for writing about wikiHow. If you think you can add to an article on a subject you know well, you are invited to do exactly that. We’d love to have all the wisdom expressed here added to that article or any others that need improvement.

  8. Boeing Says:

    Those were some good tips actually…especially the one where you need to get on the radio and FAST! I think it’s the most important part…obviously you need to find the transmitter button. But hey…if at least 1 life gets saved thanks to this article then it was definitely worth writing!

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