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There have been successful "talk-down landings" in which someone on the ground has given instructions over radio for a passenger to land an aircraft when the pilot was incapacitated, but has anyone with no flight training ever survivably landed a plane without help?

Things that don't count:

  • A computer does all or almost all of the work, e.g. Garmin Autoland
  • The aircraft lands itself without intervention, e.g. Cornfield Bomber
  • The person built the aircraft, e.g. the Wright Brothers
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    $\begingroup$ As has often been discussed, it is possible for a plane to land without any person or computer controlling it. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cornfield_Bomber $\endgroup$ Aug 1, 2023 at 2:10
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    $\begingroup$ Do Orville and Wilbur Wright count? $\endgroup$ Aug 1, 2023 at 2:56
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    $\begingroup$ Is this limited to soft landing or just any landing. Crash landing is hard landing hence is also landing. $\endgroup$ Aug 1, 2023 at 6:06
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    $\begingroup$ @Jamiec it's not a duplicate because that question is asking about someone landing a plane with help from ATC, while this is about someone doing it with no help. $\endgroup$
    – Someone
    Aug 1, 2023 at 13:56
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    $\begingroup$ @RobMcDonald To be pedantic, Wilber and Orville Wright landed a glider with no flight training. When they landed planes, they already had flight training from gliders. $\endgroup$ Aug 1, 2023 at 14:03

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Possibly.

On 2023 July 15, on final to Martha's Vineyard Airport, the pilot Randolph Bonnist became incapacitated. His wife took control of the Piper Meridian and landed roughly on the grass next to a runway, damaging the airplane but without personal injury (as the saying goes, a good landing is one you can walk away from). It has not yet been reported if she had any training or ATC assistance.

That she missed the runway makes it plausible that she had neither pilot training nor ATC assistance. Either of those would have advised a go-around, had the airplane drifted off course while she was deciding to take the controls. Any assistance from her husband must have been rudimentary. In the brief time before landing, she may have chosen to land immediately as best as she could, instead of wasting time figuring out how to hail ATC.

She had likely watched landings before as a passenger, but that doesn't count as training.

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    $\begingroup$ Hmm, I wonder if a go-around would have been a good call. If she really had zero training it might be better to take the off-runway but relatively stabilized landing then go around, risk a departure stall, and possibly end up with a less stable approach. $\endgroup$
    – Chris
    Aug 1, 2023 at 18:53
  • $\begingroup$ Good point. That suggests the question: has ATC ever advised an untrained pilot to ditch off-runway when a go-around was technically possible? $\endgroup$ Aug 1, 2023 at 19:01
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    $\begingroup$ "has ATC ever advised an untrained pilot to ditch off-runway", this is also an interesting question about the legal framework for ATCO in such situations. $\endgroup$
    – mins
    Aug 2, 2023 at 19:31
  • $\begingroup$ @mins does ATC have some kind of emergency authority to violate regulations, similar to how pilots do? $\endgroup$
    – Someone
    Sep 14, 2023 at 14:04
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    $\begingroup$ @Someone: I'm not a legal guy, and I may be wrong, but to me FAR 91.3(b) doesn't add anything to the rights of the pilot, it only reaffirms a fundamental right (every human being has the inherent right to life) which is part of the Human rights ratified by many States. $\endgroup$
    – mins
    Sep 14, 2023 at 16:56
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Almost certainly. You don't legally need any sort of training to fly an ultralight. Statistically, there are enough stupid people that it's certain many people have made such a poor decision, and they haven't all died.

If you search "flying an ultralight with no training," you can even find many such videos. No doubt, many of them built their own, but it's unlikely they all did.

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    $\begingroup$ I'm sure people have flown certificated aircraft without training as well. But that's illegal so people are probably more circumspect about admitting it. $\endgroup$
    – Chris
    Aug 1, 2023 at 19:13
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    $\begingroup$ Your answer likely applies especially to ultralight gliders, e.g. hang gliders. $\endgroup$ Aug 2, 2023 at 0:18

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