Despite the fact that all airline pilots have to pass a strict medical every six months, on rarest of occasion a pilot can lose consciousnesses with all the other people on board.
As uncommon as it may sound, it had happened on several occasions. In 2009, a Mississippi-bound aircraft had to be landed by a passenger as the pilot died mid-air. More recently, in 2013, a 77-year-old man landed a Cessna with guidance from a flight instructor and air traffic control after the pilot collapsed in the cockpit.
So, all this brings the apt question- what to do if the pilot dies mid-flight?
A Quora query has summed it up brilliantly. When an anxious traveler asked the question in the forum. Bruno Gilissen, a qualified pilot responded accurately.
If no other pilot is on board and when both the pilots have died then you’re going to be the hero of the day! Follow this procedure for a commercial jet. Don’t panic, you’re not dead! The airplane flies on autopilot and you’re going to be the hero soon. Take your time because following a procedure slowly produces faster results often than rushing.
Here are the step-by-step instructions for you to know:
There are very high chances that the plane is on autopilot. Since the computerzied system has better accuracy than humans, most pilots engage autopilot as soon as they take off.
Look for the radio in the cockpit. It’s either hanging above your head or onto the sides. If you can’t find it on your own, seek the help of flight attendants.
Finding out how the radio works isn’t hard, but do not press it yet. There is generally a ‘push to talk’ button at the backside of the stick, just like a trigger.
Be very cautious as another button in the same area turns off the autopilot. The button to disengage autopilot is red in colour and is pressed by a thumb.
Once you have found the radio button, push it to talk. Shout ‘Mayday’ to catch the attention of the people on the other side.
Now the talk-down begins. You, being an unqualified pilot, will receive instructions either from the nearby air traffic control or a aircraft on how to handle the plane.
Once you establish the communication, they will respond to you and guide you to the nearest airport where you can land.
If the autopilot is engaged, then the aircraft will land itself. Once you put on the auto-brakes, it will also brake automatically, making you the hero.
If you are unable to establish connection with anyone, then you will have to manage autopilot on your own. You will have to configure with flaps and gears as you slow down and hence, its becomes more complicated.
If you end up flying manually, it is strongly recommended that you turn on autopilot as it performs better than an average qualified pilot.
Flying an aircraft isn’t rocket science, but these tips can come handy if and when you are stuck in the air.