Could A Non-Pilot Land A Commercial Jetliner? Real-Life Pilots Weigh In


Hypothetical situation off the top of my mind; let’s say you were on a commercial flight and the entire flight crew ate fish that was tainted while at cruising altitude. They all got violently sick and were unable to fly the airplane. Could you land that commercial jetliner? Real-life pilots were asked this question and they were extremely doubtful that a non-pilot would be able to land the airliner without crashing the plane in a fiery deathapalooza.

On the question and answer website Quora, this was asked: “If you were on a plane and both pilots died, you’re put into the pilot’s seat and an air traffic controller is talking you through landing the plane, do you think you could actually land it?” Most of the real-life pilots who responded did not like the prospects for a safe landing by a non-pilot.

Jeremy Harris, an Airbus A320 Pilot, points out that you don’t have unlimited fuel so you’ll need to bring down that bird eventually. If you thought the air traffic controller could simply walk you through landing a huge airliner you are mistaken. He says air traffic controllers are not pilots and most of them have the “most elementary understanding of what even makes an aircraft fly, let alone how to operate one.” “If you tried to land the aircraft manually, the probability of success is exceedingly low,” Harris said. The pilot added that if there is bad weather and high winds the probability of safely landing a plane plummets.

Anas Maaz, an airline pilot, with almost 1,500 hours of flight experience notes that commercial jetliners are “extremely powerful,” which “makes speed management incredibly difficult.” Stabilizing the aircraft would also be extraordinarily difficult and a non-pilot could easily pull up too much on the landing causing the tail to hit the ground before the wheels causing a crash landing of death.

Dreamliner pilot and author of the book Cockpit Confidential author Patrick Smith did not believe the prospects for a non-pilot landing were very good. Daily Mail reports that Smith’s book said the chance of a passenger jumping into the cockpit mid-flight and nailing the landing without any training or pilot knowledge is “zero.”

Mythbusters did an episode where passengers attempted to land an imaginary plane on a flight simulator. Most of the attempted landings in a smalls Cessna plane ended in carnage. Let’s hope you’re never in this situation to begin with.


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