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Maybe You Couldn't Land A Plane In An Emergency, But I'm Built Different

Studies say it's all but impossible for a random passenger to land a commercial jet, but what has science ever done for anyone?

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Gif: So Boring on YouTube, Steve DaSilva / Jalopnik

If you were on a commercial flight, and your captain and copilot fell ill, could you land the plane? You probably think you could but according to studies, expert analysis, and that one Mythbusters episode, your only hope to actually pull it off lies with your radio. Get someone to talk you down, and maybe just maybe you have a shot.

That’s you, though. I could totally do it. I’m built different.

Image for article titled Maybe You Couldn't Land A Plane In An Emergency, But I'm Built Different
Photo: Rustiyani Astuti (Getty Images)

Do I have any experience flying a plane? Not really, no. I got really into the Google Earth flight simulator one summer as a kid, and I played around with X-Plane a bit on a friend’s laptop, but that’s about it. I’ve never used an actual yoke and throttle setup, and I can only actually recall one successful landing atop my childhood home in Google Earth.

What I lack in experience, however, I make up for with wholly unearned confidence in my ability to fly a plane. I mean, think about it: the wings do the hard part, generating lift with their airfoil shape. All I have to do is keep air flowing over them. And then, y’know, land it.


I do know some of the tricks, however, which will help me masterfully perform my next emergency landing. I know there are lights on the sides of the runway, and that they should be red on top and white on the bottom (“Red over white, you’re alright; red over red, you’re dead”). I learned that one from my seventh-grade math teacher, who will get some of the credit when I save the lives of a 737-load of travelers.

I’m realistic, though. I know that I’d need someone on the radio to explain the plane’s controls, and that I’d likely fuck up the landing gear something fierce. But, the actual act of guiding a plane down? I got this. Put me in, coach.