Almost half the men surveyed think they could land a passenger plane. Experts disagree

Almost half the men surveyed think they could land a passenger plane. Experts disagree

You’re not the only one who thinks you can do it. According to survey results released in January, about a third of adults believe they can safely land an aircraft using the guidance provided by air traffic controllers. The confidence level among male respondents rose to almost 50%.

Can someone without any prior training guide everyone to a successful touchdown?

Many of us have heard about passengers who saved a flight when the pilot was unresponsive. Last year, Darren Harrison was able to land a twin-engine aircraft in Florida after the pilot had passed out, with the help of a flight instructor who also happened to be an air traffic control.

These incidents are more common in simple, small aircraft. Flying an enormous and heavy commercial jet is quite a different experience.

Autopilot is not always reliable.

The pilot spends 90% of his time checking autopilot systems to ensure they are working properly. The remaining 10% of the time is spent on managing problems, taking off, landing, and taxiing.

The most difficult task a pilot performs is takeoff and landing. These are both done manually. Autopilot can only be used in very rare circumstances and on a few aircraft models. It is not the norm, but the exception.

The aircraft must accelerate until its wings generate enough lift for it to take off. The pilot must be attentive to a variety of instruments and external signals while maintaining the aircraft centered on the runway.

Once in the air, pilots must work with air traffic controllers to follow a specific path, retract the landing gear, and maintain precise speed and direction when trying to climb.

Landing requires precise control over the aircraft’s descent rate and direction.

In order to land successfully, a pilot needs to maintain a speed that is appropriate while managing gear and flap configuration. They must also adhere to air traffic regulations and communicate with air traffic control.

As the aircraft approaches the runway, pilots must judge the height of the plane, adjust their rate of descent, and reduce the power to ensure they land in the right area.

The aircraft will be brought to a complete halt before the runway is reached by using the reverse thrust and brakes on the ground. All of this happens in just a few moments.

Both takeoff and landing are far too quick, technical, and concentration-intensive for an untrained person to pull off. The skills required are also only learned through intensive training. For example, understanding the information displayed on different gauges and being able to coordinate your hands and feet in certain ways.

Pilot training

It is a long journey to become a commercial pilot. The journey from student to commercial pilot is a long one.

Before stepping into the cockpit, the student should study aerodynamics and air law, flight rules, meteorology and human factors, navigation and aircraft systems, performance and flight planning, as well as human factors. The student must also spend time studying the plane that they will be piloting.

After the basics are mastered, an instructor will take them to train. The majority of the training takes place in small, light aircraft, with a brief introduction to a simulator towards the end.

The instructor will demonstrate each maneuver or action before the student attempts to perform it. In critical situations, their attempt can be corrected or even halted.

The first 10 to 15 lessons are devoted to takeoff, landing, and basic in-flight controls. Once the student is ready, they can “go solo,” which means they will be able to fly on their own. This is an important milestone.

After years of training, they’re ready to move up to a commercial plane. They may be able to take off and land with ease but will still need to undergo extensive training to ensure they can fly the commercial aircraft. This includes hours of advanced theoretical training, dozens and dozens of simulation sessions, and hundreds of hours in real aircraft.

If you have never learned even the basics of flight, your chances of landing a passenger plane successfully with the air traffic controller’s assistance are almost zero.

But flying is just like any other skill.

The advent of high-end computer systems, virtual reality, and flight simulations such as Microsoft’s XPlane and Flight Simulator has democratized aviation training.

For a few thousand bucks, anyone can build a desktop simulator. Ideally, a desktop flight simulator should include all the physical controls that are found in a cockpit. These include a control yoke and throttle quadrant, as well as pedals.

Flight simulators offer a realistic environment where professional pilots, aviation enthusiasts, and students can improve their skills. If you think you can match up against a pro, you should try one.

It’s unlikely that you will be able to land a passenger plane at the end of the course, but you’ll have a better appreciation of the incredible skills pilots possess.


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