Pax helps in flight deck.

#1 … n/3225020/


Not very likely.

A 150 hour private pilot would be more of a distraction than a useful ‘crewmember’ in such a situation.

Any one pilot crewmember can land any transport category jet all by himself without so much as breaking a sweat. The last thing he needs at a time like that is an “OHMYGAWDI’MSITTINGINTHECOCKPITOFAJETAIRLINERLOOKATALLTHISSTUFF” 150 hour private pilot “helping” him out. By the time he figured out how to get his seat belt on and operate the power seats, the jet would already be on the ground.

In situations like this, if an additional “crewmember” was desired in the cockpit, I’d choose one of my flight attendants over any private pilot sitting in the back. The average flight attendant has far more cockpit time (and stick time, for that matter) in a jet airliner than any private pilot sitting in the back and is much more familiar with normal cockpit protocol.

Airline people train for this type of scenario regularly. If an added set of eyes, hands or ears is needed, we rely on another member of the crew, not someone on the guest list.


One thing that makes me suspicious about the story is that the first officer took the time to go from his seat to the captain’s seat. That makes no sense whatsoever because his first duty would be to fly the aircraft, not change seats. Aren’t the instruments and controls the same on both sides?




Do you mean actual flying hours?


The normal protocol for incapacitation of one of the crewmembers is for the remaining crewmember to remain at his station and land the airplane from whichever seat he normally would.

In this particular case however, the pilot sitting in the co-pilot seat was actually a senior captain giving initial operating experience to the pilot sitting in the left seat who was a captain transitioning to a new aircraft type. In this rare case, being that the pilot sitting in the co-pilot seat was in fact a senior captain himself, it would be normal for him to switch seats and complete the landing from the left seat. Reason being, he would also have access to steering controls once the aircraft landed. If he remained in the co-pilot seat for the landing, he would not have been able to steer the jet off the runway which would have caused further delay getting the ill/deceased pilot off the aircraft.

Yes I do. You would be surprised of the level of experience the average flight attendant has just from their interaction with the cockpit. While I will not go into specifics in a public forum, the average flight attendant can handle a lot more than you think and my preference would undoubtedly be a flight attendant over a private pilot in a situation like this.

Even something as simple and mundane as communicating my orders from the cockpit over the aircraft interphone to the other flight attendants as we prepare for the unscheduled landing would be an invaluable amount of assistance in this situation. Also, the average flight attendant knows where the landing gear lever and flap levers are and also knows how to work them because he/she has seen it done hundreds, if not thousands of times. Having a flight attendant be able to speak with the other flight attendants in the cabin, adjust flaps on my request and lower the landing gear when I call for it is literally, 95% of what a co-pilots duties would be during a normal landing.

I’ll take the flight attendant any day.

Also, to disclaim, my comments are not meant to diminish the capabilities of any private pilot. I was a private pilot once myself. My comments are directed at what I as an airline captain would do and why I would do it.


The only benefit I can see is to have a pilot in the cockpit in the unlikely event the other pilot drops. Otherwise, sit there, shut up and don’t touch anything.

I think with some help, a GA pilot could put an airliner on the ground as a last resort. In a situation like this, time is your friend in saving a couple hundred lives.

Do airline flight attendants go through any type of simulator training? Are they allowed in the cockpit below 10,000’ now?

This story is a bit odd. On the other hand, put yourself in the shoes of the other pilot (apparently a senior captain). He was the first one to deal with the ill pilot while locked in the cockpit. He had to manage the plane while also managing an emergency involving his fellow pilot and perhaps friend or long time associate.

In the end it worked out for everyone except the pilot who fell ill. His result would have probably been the same if he had been working in a hospital. CPR survival rates are very low (1-2%). Immediate CPR and portable defibrillator rates are climbing as high as 50%. Given the circumstances, I doubt these measures were implemented immediately.


Couldn’t a 150-hr. pilot at least man the radio and change frequencies as needed, especially if the captain (FO, co-captain, whatever) is sitting next to him giving him a “crash course” (sorry) in the above settings? I’m sure if this is true, the passenger didn’t play much of a role other than moral support, and possibly those I mentioned, so I don’t see how this is so far-fetched. The FAA will release more details on this at a later date, but it looks like they’re confirming that a passenger DID assist in the cockpit in some way. Plus, the FAs were probably busy with their own emergency protocols, as well as attending to the stricken captain. I’ll let the facts come to light before totally discounting this; not that this guy’s a hero or anything.


Not to discount any possible actions of any party involved, I think most are reading quite a bit into this particular story.

Indeed, a private pilot and aircraft owner was on board the aircraft. He identified himself as such to one of the flight attendants, as was reported in a press release. Nowhere does it say that he was invited to the cockpit.

In fact, without going into too much detail, in our post 9/11 environment, I can state with certainty that he was not invited to the cockpit.

As for “assisting on the radios,” also highly unlikely. Unless he is both current and highly proficient in both the operation of avionics aboard the Boeing AND able to keep up with the pace of a 757 in the IFR environment (also very unlikely of a Bonanza pilot), he would be absolutely useless to the check airman in the cockpit.

In an emergency situation such as this, the remaining pilot is more than qualified to both fly the jet and handle the radios. In fact, with the autopilot on, as it likely was, the workload of the remaining pilot was quite low.

The reason two pilots are in the cockpit is for a situation exactly like this one. Two are there for redundancy, not because it takes the power of two men to drive a jet around. Either pilot individually can handle the entire jet just fine.

I know it’s a private pilots wet dream come true to be “called forward” to the cockpit to assist the other pilot who is sweating profusely and wrestling with the controls. He then sits down in the vacant seat, straps in and immediately restores order to the operation. The reality however, is that any of the pilots assigned to the flight can handle the entire thing just fine on his own.

If there were no deadheading airline pilots in the back, I would utilize the services of one of my flight attendants long before announcing over the PA, “…Is there anyone on board who knows how to fly a plane?”


FYI… CessnaCitationX posted a link to this link yesterday via thread.


Looks like some people here spoke too soon…


I prefer to get my information from sources close to the event versus that of journalism with questionable sources.

According to messages posted on a union message board, including those posted by Continental pilots familiar with the incident, the remaining pilot inquired over the PA whether there were any other pilots on board. Apparently, the gist of his request was one for any other AIRLINE pilots on board, but as I understand it, the request over the PA was not specific. Two general aviation pilots identified themselves and were taken to the cockpit entry door. The pilot at the controls quickly asked what airline and aircraft type they flew for and at that point, learned that the duo were private pilots and were thanked for their coming forward but were not offered a seat.

That is the information I have from official union sources and Continental pilots familiar with the event and the pilot(s) involved. The only information to corroborate the private pilot actually taking a seat in the cockpit has come from journalists.


For the time being, I’ll trust the journalist that interviewed the pilot, as opposed to some posters on an industry message board.


To each their own. I prefer my information from the horses mouth, not the horses arse.


The horse’s mouth is someone who was on the flight. You got info from people that might have gotten their info after it’s been passed down through a dozen other people. Internet forums are not to be trusted.


And the mainstream media is??


Yes, I trust the mainstream media more than people like you. Period.


Podcast interview with the private pilot is on AVweb:


I listened to the podcast. The private pilot said he declined interviews with national media such as NBC/Today. He also said the ceiling was 800’ when they landed.


AOPA intereviewed the private pilot:

It’s a safe bet that most private pilots will never be asked to help out on the flight deck of a Boeing 757 airliner during an actual in-flight emergency. But that’s exactly what happened to pilot Stephen W. Brown of Albuquerque, New Mexico. He was traveling on a commercial flight from Houston to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, on January 24 when the captain became incapacitated and later died.

Brown, who earned his private pilot certificate in August 2006 and has logged slightly more than 150 hours, was asked to assist the now captain in the cockpit during the flight’s successful diversion to McAllen Miller International Airport in McAllen, Texas.

He described being thrust into the situation as “unbelievably humbling.” His first thought upon entering the cockpit was “clearly I can’t do much to help.” Yet despite his unfamiliarity with the complexities of the B-757-300 cockpit, his own crew resource management (CRM) training kicked in and he realized that he had something to offer.

For starters, Brown recognized that while he didn’t know the airplane at all, at least he knew something about airplanes far more than the average Joe. A strong believer in the value of CRM and making best use of all available assets (he asks his daughter to read checklists and scan for traffic when they fly together), he also realized that “any help was good help” in this situation.

He assisted by working the radios during the remainder of the flight. He also adjusted the altimeter setting on the first officer’s side as the flight descended through Flight Level 180 (the B-757 has three altimeters) and read checklists to the captain. Brown also located the appropriate ILS chart for the captain’s instrument approach into McAllen and extended flaps and landing gear on cue.

Brown, who just the month before began working on his instrument rating, was thrilled to see the aircraft aligned exactly on centerline as the flight broke through an 800-foot cloud deck. “That’s cool, that’s perfect,” he thought.

He said the view looked similar to that of a Cessna 182 he usually flies. But then he looked at the airspeed indicator. Big difference.

A partner in a successful heating and refrigeration business in Albuquerque, Brown has no plans for a career change. However he admits to being “obsessed” with flying and intends to move up soon to a faster airplane, one better suited to the kinds of business and pleasure flying he typically does. Vincent Czaplyski

Vincent Czaplyski holds ATP and CFI certificates. He flies as a Boeing 757/767 captain for a major U.S. airline and is a frequent contributor to AOPA Pilot.