Could A Passenger With No Previous Flight Experience Actually Fly A Plane?

In the past few days, some bloggers posted about an easyJet flight where the pilot didn’t show up, so a passenger volunteered and was allowed to fly the plane instead. Here are the different reports about the incident:

The punch line was that the passenger was actually an easyJet pilot who happened to be on vacation (well, easyJet is based out of the U.K., so “holiday”). So, of course, he was able to fly the plane.

But it got me to thinking – COULD a passenger – one who isn’t a pilot, and had no flying experience – actually fly a commercial plane?

In searching around the internet, I found a few posts with discussions about whether or not an inexperienced passenger could fly a plane, usually in the form of “Could a passenger successfully land a commercial plane in the event of an emergency?” A few people thought that with a lot of hand-holding from Air Traffic Control, if they had someone who was familiar enough with the layout of the control panel of that particular plane to talk them through, it could be done. Others said the chances of it being successful would vary on where you were (i.e. over the ocean or not, weather, etc.) But the general consensus from people who knew how to fly the bigger birds was that it couldn’t; it’s just too much to have to know or understand, especially when you get to the landing. Some people also suggested that the chances of both pilot and co-pilot being out of commission would be highly unusual, but even if it did happen, before an ordinary passenger was allowed to fly the plane, a flight attendant would step into the role.

Not surprisingly, Mythbusters did a couple of segments on whether or not ordinary people could land a plane. Here’s the one where Adam tried a few times. Unsuccessfully, I might add.

This is from the “new” Mythbusters, where they tried to land a Cessna. Granted, it’s not a commercial plane, but still…

Finally, this video shows someone with no flying experience trying to land a commercial plane on a flight simulator. However, she had a pilot directly behind her and (spoilers!) this video was her 3rd attempt – she was unsuccessful the previous two times.

However it’s not impossible – this article from 1981 is about a woman who was able to successfully land their family’s (granted, small) plane after her husband died of a heart attack in mid-flight.

So I guess it’s possible, but not super likely that (A) it would happen and (B) it would be successful.

Like this post? Please share it! We have plenty more just like it and would love if you decided to hang around and clicked the button on the top (if you’re on your computer) or the bottom (if you’re on your phone/tablet) of this page to follow our blog and get emailed notifications of when we post (it’s usually about 3 or 4 times a day). Or maybe you’d like to join our Facebook group, where we talk and ask questions about travel (including Disney parks), creative ways to earn frequent flyer miles and hotel points, how to save money on or for your trips, get access to travel articles you may not see otherwise, etc. Whether you’ve read our posts before or this is the first time you’re stopping by, we’re really glad you’re here and hope you come back to visit again!

This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary

 

One thought on “Could A Passenger With No Previous Flight Experience Actually Fly A Plane?”

  1. The answer is basically NO. I fly a Cessna 182 but when I get in a simulator for an aircraft like the B777 or A380 things are a lot different. When I give input to change pitch, yaw or roll on the simulator, the plane takes longer to execute that input and longer to go back to a neutral state after ceasing input.

    The video with the woman landing the plane had Captain Joe sitting in the cockpit with her. He is experienced on that type aircraft and he is basically flying the aircraft for her where she is being coached on the descent.

    You say in your article “A few people thought that with a lot of hand-holding from Air Traffic Control, if they had someone who was familiar enough with the layout of the control panel of that particular plane to talk them through, it could be done.” This is the very first problem. If the aircraft has crossed multiple ATC sectors, the radio in not on the correct frequency. A passenger would first have to get the frequency for the ATC facility they are flying in by locating that information on a “sectional map”. Assuming the passenger could locate the appropriate sectional map in the cockpit, they would have to know how to read it to determine the proper radio frequency to tune the radio to. Assuming that the frequency is known, the passenger would have to know how to tune the radio frequency and activate the new frequency.

    Since pilots these days have their sectional maps on their IPAD, the passenger would have to be able to access the IPAD and navigate their way through the “electronic flight bag” (EFB) to access the proper sectional map. I know what I would be looking for but I doubt that I could access the EFB on the pilot’s IPAD.

    Here is a great video of a passenger landing a Beech King Air 200 with previous flying experience. Read the top comment under the video that I wrote (moose354).
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XPy2Mno–6I&t=93s

Leave a Reply