Learning to Land


I remember reading a few years ago about a learn-to-land program. It was geared towards non-pilot spouses (usually wives) who flew often with their spouses. The theory was that in case something happened to to the pilot then the non-pilot could land the aircraft. I want to say the program was sponsored by the AOPA. The person taught to land obviously wasn’t awarded a pilot’s license.

For you general aviation pilots out there: What do you think of this. Do you think it’s a good idea to teach a non-pilot how to land a single pilot aircraft in case of an emergency? Or, would a little knowledge be too much and the person should allow the tower to talk them down (that works in the movies but I’m highly doubtful as to it working in real life).


perhaps I am overlooking something, but I see no reason as to why a non-pilot should not know how to land a plane. In the words of School House Rock ‘Knowledge is power!’


There is a standard “pinch hitters” course that some flight schools will hold. I had my wife take the course. It’s a 4 hour ground school course and a 1 hour flight lesson.

The purpose of the course is not how to land the plane, but to get familiar with the controls and maintain upright position AND get help on the radio.

The idea of the course is to get an already bad day become a little better of a day by seeing the light of day when meeting terra firma. In otherwords, save your skin, plane is replaceable.

My wife has about 150 hours “right seat time” and has no real interest on learning how to pilot an airplane.

She knows how to maintain straight and level, and turns in VMC. (IMC all bets are off)

She knows how to talk on the radio (in plain English), she knows how to read the GPS and knows how to change the frequency on the Garmin 430. She knows how to change the transponder to the emergency squawk IF I am not on an IFR plan.

Since she generally flies with me IFR transponder is a moot point since we are squawking and changing frequency is a moot point since I am talking. I told her just get on the radio and call for help. Not even worry about the mayday call, plain English will get her help.

Bottom line, could she land the plane? By hook or crook she will land.

The object is to land with the minimal amout of energy as I doubt she would even make the runway. My hope would be for her to make it to the airport environment.

She could fly the plane to the destination airport as case may have it, incompacitation probably won’t happen convienantly next to the departure or destination airport. I have not taught her how to put in an airport code (something I NEED to consider showing her!) should the need to divert is there. Garmin 430 not user friendly in that respect without going through many menus.


AOPA doesn’t offer the pinch hitter seminars any more except at AOPA Expo.


They do sell a DVD and have literature for that specific topic here.

This is also a good DVD for non pilot passengers.

Even without the seminars I’m sure you could find an instructor willing to modify a lesson to give your passengers a little more confidence in the right seat. I think its a good idea. Not just for safety in the event of an emergency, but to give your passengers peace of mind and keep them active in the flight and interested in aviation.


Excellent point. I was about to post the same idea. When I fly with non aviation experienced pax, I always make sure they help with the preflight. I breif them of sterile cockpit etc, but advise them that their help is needed with traffic, and i give them a sectional to keep track of where we are going. I explain the run up, and call out the airspeed and etc. I explain the flight when able.
Face it , they’re flying with a private pilot, and I’m not a multi thousand hour time (logbook only, in my mind I have flown 10s of thousands of hours) for one calling everything out is going to make them feel better about strapping in this unsafe thing that the wings could fall off, or the “engine could stall” with an amateur.
and second, it does give them a very basic knowledge of what is going on in the event of an emergency, they may then know how to operate the radio, or a basic understanding of how to fly the plane.



Do they even print those things anymore with the advent of Garmin handhelds and TAWS??? :stuck_out_tongue: :stuck_out_tongue:

I don't think sectionals, IFR enroute charts, and maps will ever go away. Or, at least I hope they don't.

I’ve had a fascination with maps and charts for most of my life. There’s something about maps and charts that you can never get from a GPS or online map. It’s the ability to get a big view of what your flying over or driving through. You can get the big picture on a GPS but, unless you have a huge display, it will be fairly small print.

I’m all for GPS units for navigation, be they used for flying or driving but one will never be able to get the big picture unless one has a huge display on the GPS unit.

Besides, a map or chart displayed on a wall looks cooler than a GPS unit tacked on the wall. :slight_smile:


One minor detail missing in an airplane. No huge wall to get to see the “whole picture”. Passengers are generally interested in time to get there then in distance one covers. Passengers LOVE watching that ETE/ETA tick down.

Between jockeying between checklists, approach charts, in turbulence or in the dark like last night’s flight for me, a brightly lit GPS unit whether it be handheld unit or panel mounted shines like a beacon in the night. Plus seeing that whole picture hanging on a window will obstruct my wonderful view out the window.

Not to say sectionals are great for “planning” VFR flights in the comforts of home, but when the rubber meets the road, sectional stays folded and in the flight bag and only there for “legality sake” AFTER training has been met.

And yes, there is nothing like learning how to read a sectional in “real time” as one floats across the terrain and watchs the lakes, river and powerline land marks pass below you. Best training aid in the world is the actual flight in learning to interpolate what you see on a map to what is below you.

The maps really do work, and YES, sectionals don’t require batterys should the “lights go out” on a GPS. :smiley:

For this particular pilot, they would be the VERY last resort, but it’s a tool in my tool kit should that tool need to be used. Having 2 panel mounted GPS’s, 1 hand held GPS’s and ALL three failing, the odds that I get situationally lost are reduced significantly.


:laughing: :laughing:


I think the worst thing would be if the plane was on autopilot. I can just see the non-pilots thinking “Why isn’t this plane responding” followed by “F%ck” times 10.


I think you got the order backwards! :stuck_out_tongue:


Or the order could be:
F$ck, No!!!-[non-pilots franticilly trying to control the plane]-more Fu#k’s.-then they start banging on the instruments.

If anybody has any personal experience with this, I would like to hear how it usually goes. :smiling_imp: :laughing: :open_mouth: :astonished: :slight_smile: :laughing: :stuck_out_tongue: :angry:




Go wash your eyes out with soap! :stuck_out_tongue:


Y’all are bad on putting new meaning / twist on mile high club :smiling_imp:


I fully agree. Also, there is a more important factor in play here. Charts do not take batteries. Charts do not malfunction. Charts work in thunderstorms. GPS is great technology - I use it all the time; in the air, on the ground, in the car - but a genuine map won’t go bad. I have the same opinion about fly by wire and glass panels instead of steam gauges - they work great when they work great.


Charts = No Batteries Required!


What if the door pops open and the map flies out?


Pull over, run out and grab it! :laughing:


Or if you spill your beer on it :wink: