How to Land an Airplane.. According to Wired Mag.

I came across this article in the latest issue of Wired Magazine (Jun 2008, Page 50). It describes how anyone can land an airplane in an emergency.


As a pilot, I was highly skeptical that these steps would work. It assumes that the person flying the airplane knows where to find the auto pilot, radios, flaps, etc. I’m sure most would be overwhelmed by all the buttons and knobs.

I’m curious to your thoughts on the article. You can click on the image to make it bigger.

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13 thoughts on “How to Land an Airplane.. According to Wired Mag.

  1. I think anyone who actually has a licence and went through the process of actually learning it would discount that right out of the gate. Even with an instructor sitting right next to you and coaching you through it many students still struggle with landings, and they already know all of the controls and theory, something the average non-pilot has zero to little understanding of.
    If a student struggles with a landing after everything he has already learned about them ahead of time, the average layperson passenger isn’t going to fare well, especially in something like a jumbo.
    A controlled crash, perhaps. A “landing”, probably not.

  2. I agree. While I am sure that theoretically it is possible, I am sure that I would not want to be on that plane.
    For the trivia minded, the opening paragraph is making reference to a CBC teleplay written by Alex Hailey and produced in 1956.
    The 1956 CBC production Flight Into Danger was based on Hailey’s in-flight imagining of what it would be like to have to take the controls if the two pilots became incapacitated.
    The teleplay starred a young James Doohan, who later gained fame as Scotty on Star Trek.
    Hailey adapted Flight Into Danger into Airport, which then served as the basis for the Airport series of movies starting in 1970.

  3. Mark, I agree with your comments. However, if everything was programmed right (as the article assumes) and the airplane is certified for CATIIIc auto-landing, then well.. the airplane will land itself.
    As well, in most cases, the pilots never apply breaks anyways. At least with most checklists for jumbos I’ve come across, the auto-braking system is always activated before landing.
    I can always count on you for obscure CBC trivia. So did they get food poisoning because they ate the fish? ;)

  4. There’s alot of “If’s” involved in assuming autoland capabilities, and the persona sbility to understand how to set it up. I’ve had pax get overwhelmed in the cabin of a C172, so staring the flight deck of something like an A380 in the face would make the technically inept cower in fear, nevermind actually even figure out how to make a mayday call and keep the aircraft under a basic level of control during that time period.
    If autoland is a possibility I guess the call to the cabin would be for the biggest computer geek onboard failing anyone with an actual pilots license stepping up first.
    However, in anything without an auto-land feature, all you need to do is watch someone with zero flight experience try to land just about any aircraft in MSFS (with realism set to high) to see that the outcome isn’t likely to be pretty.

  5. I belive there was an episode of “Mythbusters” on the Discovery channel where they tested the theory. They concluded it was “plausible” that a person with no flying experience could land a commerical aircraft *if* they could get into radio contact with someone to talk them through the process. As I recall, both of them managed to land the aircraft in a commerical-grade simulator with an experienced trainer talking them through (but they crashed and burned just attempting to land with no assistance).

  6. The problem I have with the Mythbusters episode, is that they had an instructor, who’s full time job was to teach people in the simulator.
    Is it going to be that easy to find someone (an instructor) to talk you down, if you’re pilots are incapacitated somewhere over Saskatchewan?

  7. Well, if it makes you feel any better there are a LOT of pilots in ATC.
    But I still think it is a stretch…

  8. Yeah that’s a *REAL* stretch. I found it funny they didn’t bother to label the yoke !! If the would-be pilot find the a/p disconnect before figuring out how to twiddle the knobs they will be in a heap of trouble.
    This has come close to actually happening several times I’m aware of. First, tragically, 9/11’s flight 93 *could* have retaken the cockpit. They had a private pilot on the way with them. Second, there was a decompression/hypoxia accident in Greece a while back. The airplane was on a/p, intercepted. The interceptor saw incapacitated pilots, and a male f/a in the cockpit who may have just woken up. Unfortunately, the airplane ran out of fuel and augered before he could do anything.

  9. Sarah,
    Correct me if I’m wrong. But in the case of Helios Flight 522 the F/A was also a pilot (albeit a student one at that).
    It seems that in the examples you gave, they never had a chance to see if they could land the airplanes. Shame.

  10. Hopefully no body reads this and actually has to take the controls of a jet. The artical just assumes an approach speed of 130kts for any airplane. Where’s my parachute?

  11. This was ridculously stupid. The author should be put in a Cessna 152 with a checklist in hand, and see how he/she does. I bet a million bucks it won’t be anything else than a crash.
    PS: The article says to dump flaps “after” speed reaches 130kts. Won’t 80% of today’s airliners stall well before that, considering 0 flaps initially?

  12. more correct procedure:
    1: down bottle of scotch
    2: grab that thing you fixed wings call a yolk and giver a good tug
    3:gear down
    4:bleed off airspeed until it arrives at the ground

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