Is there any documented case, excluding hijacking, where a passenger or cabin crew member had to fly an (hands on yoke/stick) – even if just briefly – due to an emergency (pilot incapacitation being the most likely one) in which he/she had to replace the pilot mid-flight ?

Aside from talk-down aircraft landings of small aircraft and stand-ins as Pilot Monitoring (which are both beyond the scope of this question), the only case I could find is:

Do you know any other cases ?

I'm particularly interested in cases, in which the stand-in pilot was unqualified to fly this specific plane, but absent such cases all stand-ins as Pilot Flying in an airliner count.


2 Answers 2


I think that in United Airlines Flight 232 Dennis E. Fitch did. While flying as a passenger on this flight, he actually was a certified flight instructor for the plane of that type so competent.

Chances to find a type-rated ATP between the passengers who would fly as if nothing may look slim but they are not zero. It is statistically more probable to find a pilot between passengers than would be just by random chance, because of deadheading.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ One thing to consider are types that dominate a fleet. For example LCCs like Southwest and Ryanair only fly one type, so any deadheading or nonrev company pilot is qualified to fly. Emirates has 58% 777s, the rest are A380s. Even with United, 44% of their aircraft are 737s. $\endgroup$
    – user71659
    Dec 17, 2018 at 7:05

Yes (well not an emergency), Aeroflot Flight Flight 593 was a fairly famous incident where the pilots son (a passenger on the flight) was in the cockpit and playing with the controls. He accidentally disconnected the autopilot and lead to the aircrafts ultimate crash.

Unlike his sister, Eldar applied enough force to the control column to contradict the autopilot for 30 seconds. This caused the flight computer to switch the plane's ailerons to manual control while maintaining control over the other flight systems. A silent indicator light came on to alert the pilots to this partial disengagement. The pilots, who had previously flown Russian-designed planes which had audible warning signals, apparently failed to notice it.

So he was at the controls for at least 30 seconds.

This question is also related as is this one.

  • $\begingroup$ Not exactly what I had in mind, but yes, that counts. Any other ? $\endgroup$
    – summerrain
    Dec 15, 2018 at 22:15

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