How to Land an Airplane in an Emergency

Remember how in the book Hatchet, the pilot who takes Brian to Canada suffers a heart attack and dies, and Brian must figure out how to land the plane? This scenario may seem as unlikely as having to survive for months in the bush with just one reliable hand tool, but it happened last month to a passenger flying on a Cessna 208 from the Bahamas to Florida. When the pilot passed out, Darren Harrison, who had no previous experience flying an airplane, climbed from his passenger seat in the cockpit, pushed the unconscious pilot aside and took control of the plane. , which plunged into a nose dive. Harrison contacted air traffic control, which guided him on how to fly and land safely. As Harrison recalled, “I was pretty calm and collected the whole time, because I knew it was a life or death situation. Either you do what you have to do to control the situation, or you’re going to die. And that’s what I did.”

Whether you’re flying in a small plane whose pilot has become incapacitated, or you’re a passenger on a commercial airliner and you’ve taken out a terrorist, who took out the pilot, getting a rough idea of ​​what it takes do then help you have that same calm and confident attitude. While autopilot systems will be able to do much of the work for you, landing an airplane still requires a manual touch and a cool head. So keep the above in mind as you take control of the plane and seek to bring it safely back to earth.

For more details, check out this article written by Air Force pilot Cameron Schaefer.

Artwork by Ted Slampyak