Even if it sounds like something out of a movie, could a flight attendant land an aircraft? It’s an often asked question. Of course, some flight attendants have no interest in flying an aircraft, so they wouldn’t be a good person to ask However, some flight attendants do indeed decide to study for their pilot’s license and, therefore, could potentially help land an aircraft in an emergency.
It has happened quite a few times that a passenger has landed an aircraft without a pilot, but these are usually small aircraft types and not a typical commercial airliner. Of course, in this case, it also helps if a passenger is an off-duty professional pilot and can take the reins and help the remaining pilot.
You never know, your flight attendant may have taken pilot training. Photo: Air Serbia
During training to become a flight attendant, you learn basic terminology for the aircraft, so that in an emergency, you’d be able to tell the flight crew the basics, you would need to know your rudder from your yoke or your slats from your ailerons and tell which is the left and right engine. Flight attendants also learn about various types of weather and some basic airport terminology.
They also undertake’pilot incapacitation training’, so if one of the pilots becomes ill or worse, we can remove them from their seat safely. In this case, the flight attendant would take the empty pilot’s seat and help the remaining pilot by reading the There are also certain hand signals taught for communication purposes as the remaining pilot may be talking to air traffic control whilst also landing the aircraft.
Would you know what to do here? Photo: Airbus / Jean Baptiste Accariez
A real problem
Of course, a real problem would be if you lost both pilots for some reason –that would be extremely unlucky! In that case, you would have to be talking to air traffic control, who would guide you as well as bring in a professional pilot on the radio to instruct you on what to do.
There is also some capacity to use the aircraft’s automatic landing capability, which uses the onboard technology and signals from the airport runway lights and transmitters to guide the aircraft down safely.
This is only normally used in low visibility and under certain conditions. The chances are high that the aircraft could land itself, in this case, with minimal input from a flight attendant and a little guidance from air traffic control.
In most real-life incidents in commercial or business aviation, the remaining pilot will land the aircraft with no issue, apart from some possible help from a flight attendant. If there is a professional off-duty pilot onboard, it is likely their skills will be called upon.
In general aviation and the smaller aircraft types, it’s good to know that there have have quite a few incidents where passengers with little or no piloting knowledge have landed safely with outside guidance.