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Teaching a passenger to land in an emergency

Let's say you wanted to teach a non-flying passenger to fly your plane, enough to get it back down in the event of your incapacitation. What and how would you train?

Some schools offer what they call "copilot" courses, but if you take say the TB20 that is not the sort of plane you want to lend to a flying school for an instructor (who has probably never been in one) to fly - even if the insurance didn't cost much more.

Also getting a school to do it is going to cost serious money.

It seems that one of the really important things to get across are the autopilot modes, because engaging the autopilot is the very first thing the passenger should do - after getting the plane straight and level if necessary.

You can't really let the passenger actually land it (though I am sure it has happened) but one can practice the whole speed/flaps/power etc procedure completely safely above an overcast and treating the tops as a runway.

Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom

Many FTOs here offer those "pinch hitter courses". The goal is not to perform a perfect landing as good as the original pilot but to know enough to survive the situation. If you know how to do it in a C172, you can apply it to a TB20, provided somebody tells you the right speed and where the throttle/flap/gear switches are.

And even if it has no real value, it might make your passenger more comfortable.

Start them in a PC driven Simulator? Some of these today are 3 screens (wrap round) with peddles.

Should give them an idea of basic control and even make a success of a landing - no cost except a bit of electricity.

NO substitute for the real thing - but a good start?

Regret no current medical
Sandtoft EGCF, North England, United Kingdom

My wife has learnt the following from me.

How to use the radio.

Check if the KFC200 is on, if not how to put on the heading mode, alt hold and turn on.

How to slow the plane down, 1 stage of flap and gear down.

Use the autopilot to make the a/c go down.

Ask for the ILS freq and put it in the 530, turn the "yellow needle " to runway heading. Ask ATC to tell her when she is 45 deg so that she can engage Approach mode. When to disengage A/P and flair and cut power.When on the ground to pull the red levers and stop the engines.

Important to tell ATC to give you one thing at a time to do, don't give headings just say turn stop, same with going down, no height just stop.

Not bothered with going around because come whatever she is going to land from that one approach.

Not saying it would be a pretty landing but down on the ground and walk away.

Personally I think using the A/P he only way she could do, especially if descending through cloud.

No success convincing my wife to even listen to how it can be done. Last time she said "we'd all die together, isn't that romantic?".

Most passengers that fly with me get the chance to fly the plane at some point. 90% of them give back the controls after a minute or two and you can see that they are quite exhausted and usually not keen on trying again.


For me the answer is very simple because as an instructor under the rules of my part of the world I am not allowed to teach outside an FTO. And since "my" FTO does not offer pinch hitter courses, I cannot teach this kind of stuff. Sometimes rules can make life simple ;-)

But if I had to provide this kind of training, I would put my emphasis on these points:

Operation of the radio (PTT switch, frequency selector, 121.5 - on many aircraft this is not obvious! Coming from the simulator onto the real aircraft I was initially unable to locate the PTT switch on the Citation...). It is very comforting to be able to talk to someone who can assist. It also takes the navigation part away. Knowing how to set the distress code on the transponder will also help. Again, this is not obvoius on some models.

Basic handling of the aircraft, flying straight and level for up to half an hour, doing gently banked turns and being able to recover from anything else is vital. I would do this part in the procedures trainer for as long as it takes including power settings (operation of throttle, prop and mixture again is not obvoius and may differ a lot between aircraft, e.g. some Beechcraft types which have the levers in the "wrong" order) and the necessary configuration changes.

And then of course some landings in a real aeroplane. If you want to take the fear and nervousness away from the student, you have to let him do the landings himself, otherwise he will never know if he will be able to do it in real life. This is where being an instructor and having the right kind of insurance cover is somewhat useful.

Anything less than five hours of training will not be of much help. And having done it once will also not be of much help. The 90 day rule is there for a reason and this reason applies to pinch hitters even more. Unless there is a way to maintain them current the whole thing is of little use.

Happy landings Max

EDDS - Stuttgart

Aviate - navigate - communicate ; so to hell with the radio.

My first point of importance would be the importance of airspeed. Second would be the counterintuitive nature of controlling airspace with pitch, lower/higher with engine power.

As already said, I think these two would be quite as much as most guests would wish to take in.

EBZH Kiewit, Belgium to hell with the radio.

With my emphasis on the radio part I was mainly referring to the kind of aeroplane Peter is talking about: A speedy, complex, retractable single. The chances of landing this in a field and walking away are not good, even with an experienced pilot at the controls. Therefore you need someone to point you to a suitable airfield (I would say the chances of a pinch hitter to land a TB20 of anything with less than 1000 meters of asphalt are marginal) otherwise the whole exercise becomes pointess. And showing someone how to get assistance over the radio is a lot easier than operating the navigation equipment.

EDDS - Stuttgart

As with all instruction it should only be conducted by an instructor. Whilst it may not legally be necessary, if there were to be an incident whilst this non-instruction is taking place, the PIC could be charged with endangerment of persons, property and the aircraft. It may also invalidate the insurance. If anyone could teach people to fly, why do we need instructor courses!

@what next: yes, the answer to this question depends very much on the category of plane, indeed. In my training I learned to consider "out-landings" non-events, just like for the gliders.

Another thing that I would wish to point out to my passengers is that damage to the plane is not a real concern, even less is material damage on the ground. The first goal is to come out alive themselves, the second is to make no other victims. I would wish to explain the master electrical switch, and where to cut fuel flow.

EBZH Kiewit, Belgium
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