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I saw a reasonably looking video about a non-pilot trying to land a plane with the help of a flight control tower (in a simulator):

(it is in French).

I believe that this was an ideal case where the plane was compatible with the airport so that the landing was almost automatic (they showed a short version of (successfully) trying to land without the automatic mode).

The person in the control tower was extremely knowledgeable about the plane, explaining exactly where to press, where to look etc.

Assuming that the whole exercise was realistic - how likely is it that there would be someone handy who could, by heart, explain via the radio what the exact steps to take are?

Note: I realize that the situation will be different between a large airport (where they could make an announcement "we are looking for a Boeing 747 pilot, please contact the reception desk if you are one") and smaller ones. In the video, they started from a cruising altitude and it took minutes to go from "there is nobody in the cockpit" to "listen to me carefully, I will guide you". It is more the realism of time which I am trying to assess.

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  • $\begingroup$ Similar video by Captain Joe: Can a passenger land a plane?. $\endgroup$ – PerlDuck Feb 20 at 18:40
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    $\begingroup$ @PerlDuck: it is an interesting one! The conclusions are also different (not realistically possible for a passenger to land a plane) $\endgroup$ – WoJ Feb 20 at 18:56
  • $\begingroup$ And yet the lady in Captain Joe's video managed it. Btw, almost all of CJ's videos are very interesting. I learned a lot from them about how things work or what they are good for. $\endgroup$ – PerlDuck Feb 20 at 19:00
  • $\begingroup$ As your example was in France, then FYI, ATCO (ICNA) curriculum in France includes obtaining a PPL and learning IFR basics, at least when training at ENAC which trains also for ATPL. It's not uncommon to see CPL pilots and even instructors in control rooms in this country. $\endgroup$ – mins Feb 29 at 13:07
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If by Flight Control Room you mean Air Traffic Control, not very likely. Simulators are operated by flight instructors. They will role play ATC for the “pilot” being instructed. So of course, they know the aircraft intimately.

There is no requirement for ATC personnel to even have a pilot certificate. If they do have a pilot certificate, they will not be type rated in that particular aircraft. They may be able to help with a GA aircraft.

For a commercial aircraft, they will reach out to a non-ATC pilot of one of the airlines whether that pilot is in the airport terminal, pilot lounge, or even in the air. More likely, they will patch the cockpit into the maintenance and training departments of the particular airline that owns the plane in danger.

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The answer depends a lot on the type of plane being flow. While plenty of air traffic controllers are also pilots on the side, it is highly unlikely that anyone on duty at the time would happen to have a type rating in a large complex turbine aircraft, and/or enough knowledge to talk through checklists. They may be able to offer very generic advice such as "See the handle that is shaped like a wheel? Push it down and that will lower the landing gear."

For simpler GA aircraft they might offer some basic assistance on how to control the aircraft, slow down, deploy flaps, etc. but there is a lot of muscle memory and technique honed by hours of practice needed to perform a "good" landing. Just explaining the exact steps to take over the radio isn't going to be enough, there is a lot more to it.

Think about the first time you drove a car with a manual transmission: Did the person telling you to push in the clutch, shift gears, then let it out smoothly while adding gas help you to do it smoothly, without stalling the engine, jerking, or racing the engine? Probably not!

About the best they could probably hope for is to help the non-pilot maneuver into a safe airspeed envelope to survive a controlled crash landing at the airfield where emergency services will be on hand to provide immediate help.

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    $\begingroup$ Not only that... but typically control towers are located at airports, and airports are one of the easiest places to find pilots. It isn't unreasonable that they could find a pilot to head up to the control tower and talk. $\endgroup$ – Ron Beyer Feb 20 at 18:50
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    $\begingroup$ Yeah, but I think it would be more than "just a few minutes" before they got someone on the radios with experience in that exact model... $\endgroup$ – Michael Hall Feb 20 at 18:52
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In this case, the passenger landed a two-seater with the help of flying instructors based at the airport.

During this incident, ATC phoned a type-rated pilot and relayed instructions. The passenger did have 150 hours on spamcans but hadn't flown for years and never a turboprop

When her husband collapsed, the wife of a pilot was talked down by another pilot in a similar aircraft while they were both in the air. Again, she didn't have a licence but she had solo-ed

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