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Passenger Lands Plane After Pilot Collapses and Dies At the Controls 249

Posted by Soulskill
from the landing-is-the-most-important-part-of-flying dept.
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "NBC reports that flying instructors at Humberside Airport, near the city of Hull in northeast England, told a passenger who had never flown before how to land a four-seater Cessna 172 after the pilot collapsed and died at the controls. Passenger John Wildey explained to air traffic controllers that he had no flying experience and that the pilot could not control the plane. 'It came down with a bump, a bump, a bump, hit the front end down, I heard some crashing and it's come to a halt,' said Stuart Sykes. 'There were a few sparks and three or four crashes, that must have been the propeller hitting the floor. Then it uprighted again and it came to a stop.' Roads around the airport were closed while two incoming flights to the airport, from Scotland and the Netherlands, were delayed as a result of the incident. The passenger took four passes of the runway, and there were cheers from the control tower when it finally came to a halt on the ground. 'For somebody who is not a pilot but has been around airfields and been a passenger on several occasions to take control is nothing short of phenomenal," said Richard Tomlinson. "He made quite a good landing, actually,' added flight instructor Murray. 'He didn't know the layout of the airplane. He didn't have lights on so he was absolutely flying blind as well.'"
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Passenger Lands Plane After Pilot Collapses and Dies At the Controls

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 09, 2013 @05:42PM (#45086025)

    Looks like I picked the wrong week to stop sniffing glue.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 09, 2013 @05:46PM (#45086067)

    So he basically winged it and hoped for the best?

  • by KPexEA (1030982) on Wednesday October 09, 2013 @05:53PM (#45086173)
    He did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night.
  • Mythbusters (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Mythbusters had an episode like this. Basically they stuck Adam and Jaime in a commercial cockpit simulator with no prior familiarization or training and tested to see if they could successfully land a passenger plane with just flight controller coaching. They both were able to do it fairly easily.

    I'm sure if you find yourself in this situation in real life, you have the additional element of stress to contend with, but mythbusters did attempt to show that landing a plane isn't all that complicated with mod

    • Gee, Adam and Jaime are essentially geeks who are used to following technical directions -- what is so hard in that?
  • I sort of expected that his name would be John Berry.
  • Good stuff (Score:5, Insightful)

    by slimjim8094 (941042) <slashdot3 AT justconnected DOT net> on Wednesday October 09, 2013 @06:20PM (#45086395)

    (I am a student pilot, and I fly a Cessna 172)

    This guy is clearly a badass, but his best trait is keeping his head on straight, knowing something about how airplanes work, and figuring out how to talk to someone. Landing is also a lot simpler if you don't care about damaging the plane (he had a prop strike) or landing on a runway that's not 4x longer than you'd usually use. Once you can talk to someone who's flown planes, you're pretty much OK as long as you don't melt down - do what they tell you, which will probably consist of a crash course in flying (what the instruments are, what's important about them, how to control the plane, etc) followed by directions to fly the plane onto the runway and hold on tight. Normally there's more finesse involved in touching down smoothly, in a short distance, at a proper approach speed - but that goes out the window in an emergency.

    I don't want to sound like I'm diminishing Mr. Wildey's accomplishment - keeping cool in that situation is very hard, and avoiding being a smoking hole in the ground is even harder with no experience. This guy should take some flying lessons, if this whole thing hasn't soured him on the idea of small planes. Maybe he can even log this in his logbook (not entirely kidding!).

    For anybody regularly flies with somebody in a small plane, there are classes out there that will prepare you for exactly such an emergency - a few hours of basic flying, radios, and landings. Don't assume your flight sim experience will do you any good, except for maybe knowing what the instruments are. The most important part is keeping a cool head - you're eventually going to land, and it'll turn out a lot better if you keep calm and think it through.

    • Re:Good stuff (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Trogre (513942) on Wednesday October 09, 2013 @07:20PM (#45086821) Homepage

      Kudos to the controller on the other end of the radio too, who I'm sure would have been sweating, talking to someone whose life depended on him keeping his cool and telling him exactly what he needed to do.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by capt_mulch (642870)
      Any light aircraft, when trimmed correctly, will continue to fly quite well if you leave it alone. Line it up on the runway (yes, it sort of steers like a car), and gently pull the power back (eyes to the end of the runway :-). With plenty of runway, it will land itself. Example - Lady Be Good http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lady_Be_Good_(aircraft) [wikipedia.org]
    • Re:Good stuff (Score:5, Informative)

      by bobbied (2522392) on Wednesday October 09, 2013 @07:40PM (#45086965)

      This is the very reason I do some basic flight training with anybody in the right seat when I have time. I explain the radio, even let them make radio calls when possible. I let them take the controls and run them though level flight, basic turns, power and trim adjustments to an airspeed. It takes about 5-10 min or so of flight time to get them to master concepts and knowledge needed to land the aircraft. (At least for what I I fly..) I also try to explain what I'm doing when I'm not too rushed, like calling out target airspeeds, altitudes, power settings and check list items. I'm not saying I can teach you how to land in 10 min, only that I can introduce you to all the controls and how to use them. It usually takes a few hours of training to get good enough skills to be good at landing but armed with some basic knowledge, somebody could talk you through it fairly easy.

      My goal is three fold. First, I hope to remove any fear they may have and help them feel comfortable. Second, I'm hopefully imparting a love for flying by teaching them as much as I can. Third, something I say or some skill they develop may save their life. Not to mention, I like teaching.

    • Re:Good stuff (Score:5, Interesting)

      by CRC'99 (96526) on Wednesday October 09, 2013 @08:38PM (#45087413) Homepage

      (I am a student pilot, and I fly a Cessna 172)

      I'm a commercial pilot (who is currently unemployed) - however operating the radio is part of my pre-flight briefing with anyone in the right seat in any G/A aircraft. In this briefing, I also go through what I'll do if we have a radio failure or comms problems - as part of this includes them using the radio (if required). Most people are very attentive - and its with this exact reason in mind - if anything incapacitates me, the least I can do for passenger safety is to get them to talk to someone who can help.

      If the person in the right seat is a bit of a fan about flying, I'll teach them a bit about basic flight controls during the flight as well. Most people see if as a bit of fun and enjoy it - but there is a serious reason behind the scenes... The best way to be prepared in aviation is to think ahead.

      For less experienced pilots, this is why we always aim to trim an aircraft for the correct attitude and performance as early as possible. The last thing you want to do is to leave the aircraft incorrectly trimmed and have something happen to you. When you step up to jet aircraft, the most important control in the aircraft is the trim. Use it well and often.

      • Re:Good stuff (Score:5, Informative)

        by slimjim8094 (941042) <slashdot3 AT justconnected DOT net> on Wednesday October 09, 2013 @09:03PM (#45087573)

        Thanks for the tip about trimming up ASAP for passenger's benefit. Yeah, the further I get, the more I appreciate trim - and I thought I appreciated it plenty! My instructor (I think deliberately) let me struggle through a few landings without trimming every attitude change. I certainly learned my lesson - if you don't touch the trim after midfield downwind, by short final you need so much back pressure you have a hard time rounding out and flaring. This gives you heavy hands, which makes you more likely to over-control, etc. But it creeps up on you, so you don't even realize how much you're fighting the plane until you get trimmed up and it just goes where you want it, no hands. My problem was I was thinking of trimming as an extra thing I had to do - really, it means you have less to do.

        I made a comment somewhere else on this page to the effect of "don't think time in your home computer sim prepares you for flying". Trim is (IMO) the single biggest reason why - or perhaps the reason you need trim is. It's an afterthought at best if you're actually trying to fly a consumer sim, and certainly not emphasized. Plus, it's an extremely tactile thing (in a cables and bellcranks plane) - both to set up trim (just relieve the pressure) and the feedback of "man, I wish I didn't have to push/pull so hard to keep altitude/airpseed", because there's usually no force feedback. FBW and hydraulics usually are free of feedback too, but by the time you get to those planes you've spent enough time in a cables and pushrods plane to know what you're doing regardless.

        • Re:Good stuff (Score:5, Interesting)

          by CRC'99 (96526) on Thursday October 10, 2013 @08:10AM (#45089869) Homepage

          My problem was I was thinking of trimming as an extra thing I had to do - really, it means you have less to do.

          The best advice I have ever been given in flying is this: Unload yourself.

          What does this mean? Ok, power on, take off roll, reach takeoff safety speed (usually 1.5x stall), rotate, airborne, set your climb attitude. Next thing, trim. With a bit of practice, about 20 seconds after liftoff, you will be trimmed for the climb - this means you can take your hands off the controls and you'll continue to climb at your (usually) 500ft/min. Your speed will be stable, your climb rate will be stable, and you'll keep climbing until you either get disturbed by a gust of wind etc or you change the controls.

          Take this time now that you can fly with hands off to glance at your engine instruments - that the RPM is what you expect it to be, oil temps and pressure is ok, airspeed is what you expect, then check your performance again (attitude, power etc). This can all be done within 45 seconds after liftoff. Now you do what any VFR pilot does best - look outside. As you're not struggling to keep the aircraft under control, you can observe what is going on outside. Looking for traffic, obstacles, making sure what you see outside matches the instruments (ie you're climbing, going fast enough etc).

          Coming up to your assigned / desired altitude, use the yolk to bring the nose down, power to cruise, trim, trim, trim. Usually up to about 1/2 - 3/4 of a turn on the trim wheel and you're almost able to fly hands off again in seconds.

          A good exercise here - trim for the climb, then don't touch the yolk again until you're on final to land. Use the trim for your attitude and rudder for turning. Do the entire circuit using only trim, rudder and throttle. As you would have been taught, the secondary action of yaw is roll - so you'll find you actually start to bank while only using the rudder. It gets tricky - and you'll be all over the place while first trying this - but it is great for learning the relationship as to what you're doing affecting the aircraft.

          Anyhow - this isn't flight training 101 on slashdot, but learning to fly has been a highlight of my life - and I'm always happy to share things with people. Feel free to email me if you want to discuss more random things ;)

    • Re:Good stuff (Score:4, Insightful)

      by pongo000 (97357) on Thursday October 10, 2013 @02:03AM (#45088731)

      My flight instructor (F-86 combat pilot in Korea) taught me very well: My training led to a successful dead-stick landing after my C172 sucked up a rivet from the carb heat door and wedged itself in a valve. Among the many things I learned from that crusty ex-USAF jet jockey was this one:

      When the shit hits the fan, FLY THE AIRPLANE. You FLY THE AIRPLANE until it's no longer moving. Never stop FLYING THE AIRPLANE or you'll surely die.

      Panic has no place in the cockpit when the shit is hitting the fan. He drilled this into me with endless engine-out drills, stalls, windows opening in flight, simulated flap jams, and even a spin recovery. He assured me that if I FLY THE AIRPLANE when things start to go downhill, there's a very good chance I'll survive.

      Indeed he was right. I was his last student before he passed away from cancer. RIP, Red...

  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) on Wednesday October 09, 2013 @06:58PM (#45086653) Journal
    John Boehner just released a statement: "This incident clearly proves pilots are not essential and we can get by without them. Let us furlough them, profit destroying, union joining, commie socialistic, moochers."
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by WiiVault (1039946)
      I never trusted pilots! I just wasn't sure why, but everybody who told me I was a loony can go suck a bag of dicks. I mean think about it who else flies planes? Terrorists on 9/11 thats who! Why is nobody in the liberal media is reporting this connection? I mean think about it, they say they lock the cabin door for their own safety but what are they hiding? A mosque? WMD's? I think we have a right to know who these so called "Captains" really are. I know this is a lot to take in, but somebody has to speak t
  • youtube video (Score:4, Insightful)

    by GodWasAnAlien (206300) on Thursday October 10, 2013 @01:53AM (#45088717)

    Looking at the youtube video, that was probably the lousiest landing in the history of the airport. But there are some, particularly me, who would like to buy him a drink.

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