If one has zero flight training, but wants to learn the basics, so that they might be able to land an airbus in a Helios 522 type scenario (or any double pilot incapacitation for that matter), what would be the best simulator to learn on and what specifically would be best to learn (basically how to communicate with ATC and perform an auto-land).

I am fully aware that it takes thousands of hours of training to learn to fly and do not expect to be some sort of pilot after just using a simulator. Basically the premise of the question relates to increasing chances of survivability in-case of such an emergency and there being no other experienced people on-board (even if the increase is only by a few percentage points:)

Edit: Also, if the flight crew were all incapacitated, how would one enter the cockpit?

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    $\begingroup$ "Also, if the flight crew were all incapacitated, how would one enter the cockpit?" - I'm not going to claim to know for certain but I'm pretty sure you can't. $\endgroup$
    – BDLPPL
    Feb 8, 2018 at 12:49
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    $\begingroup$ Your bigger problem is how to get into the cockpit with the door locked from the inside and two incapacitated pilots. The referenced attendant could get it because he knew the code to get emergency access, you as a passenger do not. The door is incredibly resilient as evidenced by the Germanwings crash when the copilot locked out the pilot. $\endgroup$
    – Ron Beyer
    Feb 8, 2018 at 13:10
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    $\begingroup$ Do you want an actual approved simulator built by the aircraft manufacturer (which will likely mean a full-motion simulator), or do you want something that runs on your home computer without any extra hardware, or something in between? $\endgroup$
    – user
    Feb 8, 2018 at 14:19
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    $\begingroup$ Any potential flight deck access is something that should not and hopefully will not be discussed here. $\endgroup$ Feb 8, 2018 at 15:09
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    $\begingroup$ @Cloud Please, you have literally no way of knowing who has downvoted your question. Please don't make assumptions. $\endgroup$
    – Jamiec
    Feb 8, 2018 at 16:39

2 Answers 2


The simple answer is: none.

Flying an airliner (never mind the difficulties of getting into a locked cockpit) is not just a matter of wrestling with some controls. And, unfortunately, you would indeed need to be "some sort of pilot" to do that, including "just" being able to "communicate with ATC and perform an auto-land".

Even if you were a qualified pilot of a different aircraft, you'd be staring at a sparkling ocean of "what the hell do these do" buttons, lights, knobs, switches, levers and other controls.

You might as well ask what kind of simulator would prepare you for playing first violin with the Vienna Philharmonic orchestra, or taking charge of a nuclear power station.

They are just not things that can be done without much study and training, without which you literally wouldn't even know what you are looking at.

This is quite sad, because I for one would be quite happy to be known as that person who stepped in and saved the day when the pilot/first violin/nuclear power station chief engineer was suddenly incapacitated.

  • $\begingroup$ This answer is so funny, that I just have to accept it - even though Kevin's answer is probably more on-point. It seems that this can be done, if one puts is a few hundred hours of study on a good simulator. $\endgroup$
    – Cloud
    Feb 8, 2018 at 15:26

Your chances are none.

I'd like to refer you to this TV episode, where a person with no flying experience at all attempts to land a Boeing 737 with just one month of training:

  • He spent 20 hours learning to fly a light aircraft, and was allowed to fly solo in that airplane by his instructor
  • After that he attempted to land a B737 in a professional simulator, and crashed on the first landing attempt even with an instructor pilot sitting next to him in the cockpit
  • After weeks of training in the professional simulator, his attempted to fly the real aircraft. His first landing attempt failed and the instructor stepped in to save it. His second attempt was successful but was a kind of a hard landing.

Which simulator is appropriate (...)

If even a professional simulator with an instructor pilot to the side fails to teach a young pilot to land a B737, I am convinced that there is no simulator which would let a person "with zero flight training" to land an airliner when all pilots are incapacitated, assuming that you can get through the cockpit door.

That aside, there are products which simulate airliners to great detail on the home flying simulator market. You will have to spend at least hundreds (if not thousands) of hours to study the materials though.

  • $\begingroup$ I'm no expert, but isn't comparing a 737 to an airbus a bit unfair? Would an airbus be easier? $\endgroup$
    – Cloud
    Feb 8, 2018 at 15:27
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    $\begingroup$ Please keep it nice gents $\endgroup$
    – Jamiec
    Feb 8, 2018 at 15:46
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    $\begingroup$ @Cloud Comparing a 737 and an "Airbus" is toatally appropriate in this case. They're not that different that the answer to this question would be any different materially $\endgroup$
    – Jamiec
    Feb 8, 2018 at 15:46

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