My dad is a pilot who flew over 15000 hours in 777. Will he be able/allowed to help the crews if the same plane is in emergency?

  • $\begingroup$ This quesion is much too broad to be answered. Which type of emergency are we talking about? Are your dad on the plane or on the ground? Does he know there is something going on? Does the crew know that he is a pilot? And even if we had the answer to all these questions, any answer would probably be mostly opinion based. $\endgroup$ Aug 15, 2017 at 4:15
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    $\begingroup$ could be a partial duplicate of this: aviation.stackexchange.com/questions/163/1467 $\endgroup$
    – Federico
    Aug 15, 2017 at 5:23
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    $\begingroup$ Your father could had answered this: It is up to the discretion of the pilot in command. $\endgroup$ Aug 15, 2017 at 7:19
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    $\begingroup$ @mins What do you mean by "general laws"? The only laws that are relevant are those pertaining to aviation, the very subject of this site. $\endgroup$ Aug 15, 2017 at 9:58
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    $\begingroup$ There's an interview on YouTube with a B-1B pilot that was asked to assist the first officer after the captain became incapacitated. $\endgroup$
    – TomMcW
    Aug 15, 2017 at 18:40

2 Answers 2


United 232 might be close to what you're thinking about: a United flight training instructor on board helped the pilots to land the aircraft, although he wasn't retired. But for this scenario to happen you need a fairly specific combination of circumstances:

  1. The passengers have to know there's an emergency
  2. Your father has to believe he could help significantly
  3. The cabin crew have to decide it's worth passing your father's offer to the pilots
  4. The pilots have to decide it's worth bringing another, unknown pilot into the situation

The basic question would be: is your father's help going to be important enough that it's worth increasing the communication and CRM workload for the crew? That's not necessarily an easy decision to make, especially if time is very limited or the nature of the emergency isn't clear.

Being "allowed" to help isn't really a consideration here, by the way: pilots have very broad emergency authority to do whatever they think is best.

Overall, it's certainly possible and it would be the pilot in command's decision to accept your father's offer or not. It's just very, very unlikely.

  • $\begingroup$ Reference FAR 91.3, the emergency authority of the pilot in command: "The pilot in command of an aircraft is directly responsible for, and is the final authority as to, the operation of that aircraft." If the PIC wants someone's help, the PIC may get that person's help. (If the Captain is disabled or otherwise unable to perform the appropriate duties, the then-acting PIC would make the decision.) $\endgroup$
    – ammPilot
    Aug 15, 2017 at 15:17

There are two questions here: will he be able and will he be allowed.

Will he be able to help? Generally yes. The retired pilot's ability to improve the situation depends on a few factors, such as how long has he been not flying, his mental and physical condition, any disparities between the model which he flown years ago and the current model, updated airport locations which he may not know etc.

Will he be allowed to help? Again, generally yes, but it is the decision of the pilot in command (or whoever is in charge if the PIC is unconscious). The cockpit only has so much space, and if it is decided that the pilots on duty can handle the situation already, there is no reason to bring onboard a retired pilot from the passenger cabin. Or, perhaps he is known to the flight crew as a past coworker of the airline, and the pilots may wish to listen to the view of an experienced captain.

To conclude: it depends, with a generally yes.


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