What if an airplane can't land

Emergency landing: can a passenger land an airplane?

Emergency landing: can a passenger land an airplane?

You really don't want to imagine what circumstances could lead to such a horror scenario: You are on a scheduled flight and both pilots are incapacitated. So someone else has to take care of the emergency landing. But can a passenger land an airplane? What sounds far-fetched at first is not impossible. One is also prepared for such a scenario when it comes to ground control. An instructional video by a pilot shows: This is how you, as a passenger, safely land a Boeing 737.

The nice thing about flying an airplane is that it's so incredibly safe. Regardless of whether we are going on summer vacation or on the next business trip: Basically, we don't need to be afraid in a passenger jet. He takes off, there is often an inadequate meal and then the machine usually lands safely and safely again. The chance of being killed in a crash is negligible. Some people still suffer from fear of flying. For example, when there is a lot of turbulence, some people really go to the barricades. And despite all the security, there are still one or the other horror scenario for passengers. Consider, for example, the errant flight of the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 MH370, which has not yet been clarified. What if both pilots suddenly fail? Out of whichever reasons. If you cannot imagine this case and believe that something like this can never happen, you are not allowed to play the lottery.

It all started with a passenger's curiosity

Basically, it all started when a user of the question-and-answer platform Quora wanted to know whether it was possible as a passenger to land a jet. Quora is often about the question of whether flying is safe. The knowledge platform is one of the market leaders in the exchange of user knowledge via the Internet. The question from the flight-savvy user was in the wording: "What should I do if the pilot passes out and I (with no flight training) have to land the plane?" land if the pilot fails.

The user probably did not expect the answer that the user received. The pilot Tim Morgan replied naturally that he had made an explanatory video in which he shows how a layman can land a passenger plane. In this case, it was a Boeing 737. And that wasn't enough: In addition to the video, Morgan had taken the trouble to write an understandable explanatory text in which he explained exactly what a passenger had to do to get the aircraft land. The text is clearly illustrated and really enables almost every adult to acquire the knowledge how to land a jet.

To make the video, Morgan used Microsoft's flight simulator. The software has been popular with amateur pilots for decades, who want to experience what it feels like to fly an airplane as realistically as possible. The video has been viewed more than 338,000 times to date. Morgan emphasized precisely because of the great popularity of the German newspaper "Die Welt" that of course he could not guarantee the correctness of the instructions. The hobby pilot is actually a full-time software developer.

Every plane is different

Tim Morgan wrote his landing instructions for the Boeing 737 with a bit of gallows humor and makes the reader smile while reading it. He emphasizes that the machine is well and gladly controlled by an intelligent autopilot when cruising and that there is not much you can do wrong. The bad news, however, is that you have to land at some point and every aircraft is a little different. The hobby pilot selected a commercial aircraft as an example and opted for the Boeing 737. It was clear that he would choose this type of aircraft, says Morgan. Because the jet is one of the best-selling passenger aircraft in the world. On the whole, however, the instructions should be transferable to all large and modern commercial aircraft.

Boeing 737 approaching for landing: Steering is not that easy after all. Photo: Pixabay

This is how you land a Boeing 737 as a passenger

Probably hardly any of us will ever be embarrassed to have to land an airplane in an emergency or even to carry out a more acute emergency landing. Nevertheless, this guide is probably one of the simplest and most useful for anyone who still wants to know how to do it. Tim's golden rule is then quite simple: First you have to make the communication of the aircraft your own and secure the headset of the pilots. Then you press the talk button and automatically contact the airspace surveillance in this way. Anyone who has done this has probably already taken one of the most important steps to safely land the aircraft and initiate the emergency landing. Because the specialists in ground control will immediately call in a pilot for support, who will then give further instructions to the layman in the cockpit.

Whoever has made contact will next check the instruments and see whether the jet is still on course. When descending, the speed should drop below 250 knots. The top speed for the landing approach should be reduced to 140 knots. Meanwhile you have to extend the flaps to 30 or a maximum of 40 degrees. Morgan even shows in his instructions how the runway should look when it appears in front of you, so that the approach is not too high or too low. The graphic shows which shape the runway must have in order for the approach angle to be correct.

The main steps to landing the plane

For those who have followed the previous instructions, the moment of truth has come afterwards. The autopilot is now switched off and the final approach to the airport is carried out manually. And from Morgan's description it quickly becomes clear why the selection tests for pilots are so strict: Landing the aircraft safely is still responsible manual work today and requires a lot of multitasking because many steps have to be completed at the same time.

Safe: Anyone who, as a layman, brings the machine to the ground can confidently pat themselves on the shoulder! Photo: Pixabay

Landing the machine works like this: First you have to pull the thrust lever all the way back to reduce the speed further. Then you put the nose of the aircraft slightly upwards, because this ensures that the machine lands on the rear wheels. Next you have to extend the airbrakes to the maximum and activate the reverse thrust on the thrust lever. At the same time you balance the machine with the two foot pedals so that the jet stays in the middle of the runway. But at the same time pay attention to the speed. If the speed drops below 80 knots, you should take the reverse thrust out again so that the speed remains stable. If the lay pilot has done everything right up to this point, the machine should touch down safely and safely. Now, in the penultimate step, you can really step into the irons and brake with the foot pedals with full force.

When the plane comes to a standstill, you can pull the handbrake, which is labeled “Parking Break”, and wait for the airport emergency team to take over. The engines are simply switched off by interrupting the kerosene supply and setting the corresponding lever to "cut off". Anyone who has managed that can confidently pat themselves on the shoulder. And Tim Morgan also has a tip ready: "Grab a beer from the galley and enjoy the ride down the emergency evacuation slide." That means something like: Grab a beer from the galley and enjoy getting off the emergency slide!

You can find the video “How to land a 737 (Nervous Passenger Edition)” on Youtube

At the following link you can watch Tim Morgan's video and learn "thumbs up" how to land a passenger plane in an emergency.

Parking safely is even easier than landing safely

For everyone who prefers to be behind the wheel of their car rather than in the cockpit of a scheduled plane, parking comparison is the perfect way to find cheap parking spaces at the airport. We have inexpensive and secure parking spaces at all major German airports such as Frankfurt am Main Airport in our program. No matter if you only park for a short time or as a long-term parker, you can save a lot compared to the regular parking garages directly at the terminals.