Have you ever wondered what you would do if the pilot became unconscious? Perhaps he had fish for dinner…where as you had the steak. Who knows. If there is no one else capable of flying the plane, your safety may depend on you making several important decisions. Your landing will likely be guided by someone on the radio, but this overview will help you know what to expect.
#1 Take a seat
The pilot (Captain) usually sits in the left seat where the concentration of instruments are (especially for light single engine aircraft). Fasten your seat-belt and shoulder harness if so equipped. However, almost all aircraft have dual controls and you can successfully land the plane from either side. Do not touch the controls yet! Many airplanes have an autopilot and moving the control yoke or stick may disengage it. Make sure the unconscious pilot is not leaning on the control yoke (the plane’s equivalent of a steering wheel).
#2 Take a breather
You’ll probably be overwhelmed with the sensory overload and the seriousness of the situation.
#3 Level the aircraft
If the plane is noticeably ascending, descending, or turning, gently bring the plane into a level flight attitude.
Look for the attitude indicator. Sometimes called the artificial horizon, it consists of a miniature set of “wings” and a picture of the horizon. The top is blue (for the sky) and the bottom is brown. On some complex aircraft, the attitude indicator is displayed on a computer screen in front of the pilot. For older aircraft, it is in the center of the top row of instruments.
- Correct the pitch (climb or descent) and bank (turning) if necessary so that the miniature wings are level with the artificial horizon. If they are already level, do not touch the controls at all; move to the next step. If you do need to level the plane, however, adjust the flight attitude by pulling the yoke (or stick) toward you to bring the nose up or push it forward to lower the nose. You can correct bank (turning) by rotating the yoke left or right to turn in that direction. Simultaneously, you must apply slight back pressure to the yoke to prevent the airplane from losing altitude.
- If you have been trying to correct the flight path, the autopilot is probably disengaged. Try to get the autopilot on, by pushing buttons labeled “AUTOPILOT” or “AUTO FLIGHT” or “AFS” or “AP” or something alike. On passenger airplanes it is situated in the center of the glare-shield panel, in a position where both pilots can easily reach it. Only if this results in the aircraft doing things you do not want it to do, disengage it again by pushing all buttons you can find on the yoke (which then probably will include the autopilot disconnect button). Usually the best way to get an aircraft to fly in a stabilized way is to not touch the controls; it is designed to be stable and most people who are not trained pilots tend to over-control the plane.
#4 Call for help on the radio
Look for a hand-held microphone, which is normally to the left of the pilot’s seat just below the side window, and use it like a CB radio. Find the microphone or take the pilot’s headset, press and hold the button, and repeat “Mayday” three times followed by a brief description of your emergency (pilot unconscious, etc.). Remember to release the button to hear a response. An airport flight controller will help you fly the plane to a safe landing. Listen carefully and answer their questions to the best of your abilities so they can better assist you.
If you see a red light on the panel illuminated, tell the controller. Below the red light, there will a description of the light, i.e. Generator, Low Voltage. Obviously this requires prompt attention.
- Alternatively, you can take the pilot’s headset and press the push-to-talk (PTT) button, which is on the yoke. However, so is the autopilot button, and if you press it by accident, you could mess with the autopilot system. Stick with the hand-held radio.
- If you know how to change the frequency, you can call for help on 121.50 MHz. Otherwise, call on the frequency you are currently on.
- If you can find the Transponder on the radio stack (it has four windows of numbers from 0-7, usually located near the bottom of the stack), set it to 7700. This is an emergency code that will quickly alert air traffic controllers that you have an emergency.
- If possible, use the airplane’s call sign when you talk with the controller. The airplane’s call sign is located on the panel (unfortunately, there’s no standard location, but the call sign should be somewhere on the panel). Call signs for airplanes registered in the United States start with the letter “N” (e.g. “N12345″). “N” can be confused with other letters over a radio, so say “November.” Announcing the call will clearly identify the aircraft and will also give the flight controllers important information about the airplane so they can better help you land it. If you are on a commercial aircraft (an aircraft operated by an airline, such as United, American, US Airways, etc.) the aircraft is not referred to by its “N” number. It is instead called by its call-sign, or the flight number. Sometimes pilots will put a sticky note on the panel to remind them. Ask a flight attendant what the flight number is. When you call on the radio, say the airline’s name first, then say the number. If the flight number is 123 and you are flying United, your call-sign would be “United 1-2-3″. Do not read the numbers like a normal number, so do not say “United One-hundred twenty three”.
Pages: 1 2