Today’s Illustration: It’s Plausible, But Not Likely.

 Who:  “Myth Busters”

When: February 2017

What: Can A Passenger Land An Airplane?


With zero experience, could I land a jetliner if I had to?

  • “Myth Busters” had seemingly demonstrated a person without any experience could lack an airplane, aided only by flight control.
  • Four inexperienced pilots attempted the landing.
  • They used a flight simulator.
  • The simulator was for a Cessna 172
  • Landing in Garberville, California
  • It will also be raining in the simulation.
  • An experienced pilot was giving instructions from a remote location while watching the same simulator’s computer screen.
  • Only one of the four landed it successfully, and the other three crashed the airplane to varying degrees.
  • The conclusion to the question — [Can a novice successfully land an airplane only being talked down by air traffic control?] — was . . . . It was plausible.
  • “. . . . when someone shouts, Is there anyone on board who can fly this plane? — Don’t raise your hand.”


. . . . .

Key Biblical Thoughts:

  • confidence
  • arrogance
  • faith
  • foolishness
  • advice
  • counsel
  • God’s plan
  • salvation
  • sin
  • temptation – “I can handle this!”
  • God’s will
  • sovereignty
  • purpose
  • meaning
  • all things work together for good
  • the Devil
  • warning
  • danger

. . . . .

Sermonic Example: There are several distinct ways that one can use illustrative material.

(use whatever you find useful from the above details)

After four attempts, only one of the three novices was able to land the small aircraft successfully. The conclusion to the test of the question — Can a novice successfully land an airplane only being talked down by air traffic control?] — was . . . .

It was plausible.

It could be done, but more likely than not, the novice pilots would crash the airplane. The typical and plausible ending of such a scenario, such a story, is the death of all aboard and the loss of all and everything.

There are examples in the Bible that have that same pattern. There are examples of those who have lived lives knowingly separated from God by God’s kindness and grace. They lived wicked lives, but at the end of life, they landed safely. It does happen, but such a landing is far from typical. That is not a plausible ending to a story of a life lived for self, a life with no eternal payment for and forgiveness of sin. The more likely ending is a spiritual crash. That is why the Scriptures say — Today, if you will hear His voice, harden not your heart. It has been said that the one thief on the cross was saved in the last moments of life so that none might despair. The other thief was not, so that none should presume.

There are historical examples of men and women who lived their lives estranged from God and His Son, Jesus. Then, on their deathbed or shortly before their last years, they sought forgiveness from the only Saviour. But that is not the most plausible ending to a story of rejection, to a life separated from the Lord and a refusal of His offer of forgiveness of sins. . . .

. . . . .

. . . . .

Other Information & Links:

A great watch

Alternate links:
In this example, the simulator is programmed for a commercial air passenger plane, with an experienced pilot seated behind the inexperienced pilot and a great deal of assistance from the automatic controls of the aircraft.


. . . . .

. . . . .

The Professional Opinion of Andrew Deane — 38 years in aviation. Military and commercial pilot.

“I served six and a half years in the U.S. Navy as an instructor in Advanced Jet Training. I flew corporate aviation for three years and joined Delta Air Lines in 1976. I retired off of the B-777 after twenty-eight years.”

With zero experience, could I land a jetliner if I had to?

As a former Line pilot and Simulator instructor for a major airline, my opinion is it might be possible for a non-pilot to accomplish landing an airline aircraft in a full-motion Simulator on their first attempt. (Ala the Myth Busters) but only with help.

However, there is a big difference between having this attempt done with a Flight Training instructor in the Simulator coaching the non-pilot through the entire process or in the classic Hollywood scenario, where all the pilots have mysteriously died and the non-pilot is trying to navigate and land the plane while being coached by a pilot on the ground talking to him/her by radio.

In the former scenario, with enough of a briefing beforehand and with coaching during the approach (heavy coaching), I think it might be possible for some non-pilots to get the Sim on the ground without crashing. (Of course it would be easier for the Sim Instructor to simply show them how to set up an auto-land in the Flight Management System and let “George” do it.).

The most challenging part of this first scenario would be teaching the rookie very quickly how not to over-control the aircraft as it goes through configuration changes. On approach, when the landing gear is extended and when flaps are selected, there are changes to the trim of the aircraft that will greatly change the force necessary on the flight controls. Speed changes have a similar effect on this need for trim. To have a chance at a successful landing those forces have to be ‘trimmed out’ so the control column is close to neutral again. (Our non-pilot will have to learn that in a hurry while it’s happening.)

Then there is the matter of throttle settings. The whole time you are going through configuration changes, you will have to make throttle changes. First, throttle reductions to slow the aircraft to a certain speed and then throttle increases to handle the increased drag on the aircraft as the gear and flaps are lowered. Oh, by the way, you have to try to keep the aircraft in level flight while you are doing all of this.

Just to get an idea how much is going to happen during this approach, consider when you start this your aircraft is flying level at a speed of 250 knots. You’ll be perhaps 10 miles from the airport at about 1,500 feet above the ground. You then have to turn toward an imaginary point that is about 6 miles out on the “extended center-line” of the landing runway to get set up. You can’t simply turn and fly toward the airport. That won’t work.

Meanwhile, you need to reduce the throttles to begin slowing down to between 200 to 170 knots to lower the landing gear and begin extending the landing flaps. You know where those handles are, right? You want your airspeed to continue to bleed off to arrive about 10 knots above your reference speed prior to reaching 5 miles from the airport. Don’t forget to re-set your power, you don’t want to get slow.

If I’m sitting in your jump-seat I’m helping a lot because I’m going to prompt you to do all these things at the proper time, even pointing at the item that needs your attention. I’ll give you headings to fly on your HDMI – heading indicator, (Did I tell you how to read that instrument?) so you can arrive at that imaginary 6 mile point from the landing runway pointed in the right direction.

Once you intercept the glide path to the runway. (Approximately a 3 degree slope extending from the touch-down point) you will need to maintain a steady descent rate to the runway. (Approximately 500 feet per minute.) Assuming you are properly configured, (gear down – landing flaps set), you’ve managed to maintain a reasonably level altitude and you’re trimmed on approach speed, adjustment of the throttles is how you’ll control your sink rate from here to touch-down. You’ll need to continually adjust your power setting in order to stay on the glide path. (Technique in some aircraft, the final landing flap setting is not selected until you intercept the glide path. The extra drag produced with the existing throttle setting will set up about a 500 fpm sink rate making for a smoother transition). Oh, I forgot, since you’ve never done this before, you have no idea what a 3 degree glide slope looks like, no sight picture. I’ll have to coach you through that too.

As you get closer and closer to the touch-down point on the runway, control deflections through the control column becomes more frequent to stay ahead of deviations from a proper glide path and runway line-up. Remember, the cone for a proper glide path is continually narrowing the closer you get touch-down. Even when the aircraft is trimmed properly, your movement of the controls needs to be precise to ensure you don’t over-control and set up a dangerous oscillation of the nose or waggling of the wings. All the while, I’ll be coaching you closely on throttle settings too.

Don’t forget that all this time you also have to stay on the extended runway center-line. Hopefully the wind is directly down the runway. You can push or pull a tiny bit with the nose to help the throttle keep you on the proper glide path but don’t over-do it. Also remember, during this entire flight down the glide path you need to keep the aircraft’s speed, as shown on the aircraft’s airspeed indicator, within 10 knots of a reference speed based on your aircraft gross weight. In this example, let’s say it’s 138 knots.

If you’ve done all of these things, within reasonable boundaries, you should arrive about 50 feet above the runway on center-line where you will begin to pull the nose up to break the rate of descent while pulling the throttles to idle at just the right rate to make a smooth touch-down on the runway. If you’re too fast, you’ll float down the runway and either miss it entirely or land with too little pavement to safely stop before the end. Too slow and… I think we all know what happens then.

The cockpit, depending on the size of your aircraft, will appear to be pretty high in the air when touch-down occurs. So your ‘sight picture’ for the flare will be a complete mystery to you. I will have to tell you when to start pulling back on the yoke and the throttles or you won’t flare soon enough. After touch-down, release some back pressure on the yoke to let the nose fall smoothly to the runway, and when the nose gear is down, assuming you have armed the auto-spoilers, all you need do is firmly yank the thrust reverse levers up to get the engines in reverse thrust. You’ll need to work the rudder pedals to stay on runway center-line and smoothly apply the brakes. Yikes, where are the wheel brakes? They’re on the top of the rudder pedals.

Now consider the other scenario and think about accomplishing all that while you are alone in the cockpit talking to someone on the ground.

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