Watch a Passenger With Zero Experience Land a Plane
“Does anybody know how to fly an airplane?”
The words that lurk in the nightmares of passengers around the world were the basis for a new YouTube video from Friendly Skies Film.
Nick Cyganski, a licensed pilot, wanted to film a test wherein his friend, Connor—who has never flown a plane or even been inside of a cockpit—attempted to navigate and land his plane (a 1977 Piper Warrior II PA28 151).
Connor was blindfolded and only introduced to the cockpit once the plane was cruising. His flight started smoothly and Connor quickly gained control of the aircraft. Until the harrowing moment when he came into the airport for landing.
The only guidance Cyganski gave was when the plane came in for a landing at the airport. His friend managed to safely land the plane with minimal guidance.
Although it’s not recommended to test out the passenger takeover: Any two-seat plane requires a pilot’s license to operate. Those who fly without a license risk time in prison and a fine up to $250,000. (The only plane permissible to fly without a license in the U.S. is an Ultralight one-seater.)
Although it is incredibly rare that a passenger has to land a plane with no experience whatsoever, it is not unheard of. In 2009, a passenger in a Super King Air two-engine turboprop took over and safely landed the plane when the pilot died mid-flight. There were two other passengers in the aircraft. In 2012, an 80-year-old woman took over for the pilot, her husband, when he collapsed at the controls of a Cessna aircraft, despite never having flown before. And in 2013, a 77-year-old man took over the controls of a Cessna 172 Skyhawk when the pilot, his friend, collapsed.
However, there are no instances on record of a passenger having to take over a commercial flight. The only thing that slightly resembles the terrifying movie trope was one instance where an off-duty pilot who was flying United Airlines as a passenger took over when a co-pilot suffered a heart attack.