What happens if you’re on a commercial flight and the pilots of your plane are knocked out? That was a question posed on Quora, a question-and-answer website, prompting a pilot to make a detailed tutorial on how an amateur can safely land an airplane.
“The good news is the plane will probably have a sophisticated autopilot that can take care of most of the flying for you,” wrote Tim Morgan, a commercial pilot and software developer. “The bad news is you will still probably have to land it, and every aircraft cockpit is going to be different, so it’s not like you’d know exactly where to look to find the things you need.”
Morgan chose to make his instruction for the cockpit of the 747 because it was an extremely common commercial aircraft. It simulates a passenger commuting with Air Traffic Control as he tries to land the plane, along with Morgan’s narration.
The first step is simple: press the push-to-talk button so that you can talk to Air Traffic Control, who will direct other airplanes out of your path and tell you where you should fly.
The next step is to dial the desired altitude in autopilot depending on whether you want to ascend or descend, an action that requires checking a number of dials in advance.
As you descend and approach where you want to land, the speed has to be lowered, again involving a number of switches and dials.
Then the flaps on the airplane’s wings need to be progressively lengthened as the plane slows down, the trickiest part of the process.
As you approach the runway, autopilot needs to be turned off, the landing wheels switched out, and the amateur pilot needs to aim for a proper slope-line as the airplane hits the ground.
Finally, a series of breaks and thrusts need to be operated to put the plane to a full stop, followed by shutting down the engines.