0
$\begingroup$

I know this is an almost impossible situation, but... Imagine that a pilot is kidnapped and placed inside a Cessna plane. At a certain point the kidnapper jumps out of the plane, destroying the radio and taking all the aeronautical charts with him.

My question is: what should the pilot do, since he does not know where he is (he does not even know which country), there are no signs of civilization where he's flying, and he has no aeronautical charts?

$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ If the hijacker somehow managed to jump out of the plane, then I would assume any sane pilot would do the same considering the chances of making it out of the mess alive. $\endgroup$ – Super Mar 13 at 2:45
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Time for this -- aviation.stackexchange.com/q/75263/34686 $\endgroup$ – quiet flyer Mar 13 at 2:47
  • 6
    $\begingroup$ Pick a field, land, ask somebody. $\endgroup$ – Ron Beyer Mar 13 at 2:49
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ It’s a good thing I have ForeFlight on my cell phone. $\endgroup$ – Dean F. Mar 13 at 3:28
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @RobinBennett - There was another question here at AviationStackExchange regarding whether flying in triangles was a legitimate distress signal. I think the consensus was that it was a European thing not duplicated elsewhere. aviation.stackexchange.com/questions/26261/… $\endgroup$ – Dean F. Mar 13 at 15:24
1
$\begingroup$

You are right, this is a pretty improbable situation. But, I will give it a whack.

Aviate - Fly the plane. Fly it at as high of an altitude possible while still keeping visual contact with the ground. Just in case you lose an engine. Fly it in a wide circle or holding pattern until you get your bearings. Slow down your airspeed and lean your mixture for max endurance. You want to conserve fuel as well as ground position. No use in getting more lost quicker.

Navigate - Look for something identifiable. Or at least something that will lead you to civilization and suitable landing areas. Think of it like being lost on the ground. Look for your North direction using the sun or stars. Evaluate the ground for:

  • High speed avenues of approach like roadways
  • Key terrain features
  • Man-made obstacles like towers or buildings

Find water. In the US water towers (not all) are marked with location names. If you find a river, you will usually find civilization close by. If you find a shoreline, you may be able to find a flat area suitable for landing.
Fly downhill. Fly towards the lowering terrain. You are more likely to find a landing area.
If all else fails go IFR (I Fly Roads).

Communicate - If the transponder works, squawk 7600. If you have a cell phone, try it. You May have to descend to get it to work. Only do so if you have established where you are and if the aircraft is safe to continue flight. Turn on all of your exterior lights. If you see an airport, circle directly above the field at 2000 to 4000 feet AGL and look for light gun signals.

Land as far away from the kidnappers/highjackers as possible.

| improve this answer | |
$\endgroup$
2
$\begingroup$

The first thing you should do during a lost com's situation is fly the plane (that is really the first thing you should always do).

The second thing you should do is use visual reference points to figure out where you may be and get some situational awareness. Even in a foreign land a pilot may be able to identify known land marks like city skylines or prominent geological features. Even something like a coast line can be identifying. If the pilot becomes concerned about fuel (which any good pilot will at some point) then they should be on the look out for an airfield or a nice area to put the aircraft down.

The third order of business is to squawk 7600 on your transponder. This will alert any ATC facilities pinging you on radar, that you are unable to transmit and/or hear them.

This falls in line with the FAA's general advice of "Aviate, Navigate, Communicate".

Just a bit of an applicable side note: In the US under the FAA, and in other jurisdictions there are lots of areas that full under "uncontrolled" airspace where no radio or charts are required to be onboard anyway and many pilots are proficient flying in such a situation. Id even go so far as to say that a solid chunk of Piper Cubs are still flown this way.

| improve this answer | |
$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ I think sectional charts or their electronic equivalents are required to be on board in the US even for flights in strictly class g airspace, with the possible exception of a strictly local flight. Could be wrong. Could be the basis of another question. $\endgroup$ – quiet flyer Mar 13 at 2:51
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @quietflyer for subpart F "large and turbine aircraft" yes but strictly speaking they are not. 91.103 requires you to be familiar all info which means you would need to at least look at a chart at some point but they are not strictly required. $\endgroup$ – Dave Mar 13 at 2:56
  • $\begingroup$ @ Dave: But the hijacker grabbed all the charts before he jumped :-) $\endgroup$ – jamesqf Mar 13 at 4:21
  • $\begingroup$ @jamesqf but did he grab the data cards from BOTH of my 430's??? ;-) $\endgroup$ – Dave Mar 13 at 5:17
1
$\begingroup$

Aviate, navigate, communicate.

First, make sure flight is stable. Figure out how long you can do that, and set up flight to maximize that.

Now try to figure out where you can go. From the Question, it sounds like there are no easy answers: no airport in sight, no giant concrete arrows pointing the way, etc. in that case, pick a best direction taking into account terrain, weather, light and wind and start looking for a place to put down. Climb a bit for a wider view if you’re low and can afford it.

Take the first acceptable place, as you’ll want to preserve your passengers (if any), your plane, and even perhaps your remaining fuel.

What about communicate? Well, the problem statement seems to rule that out in flight, but after down SERE training becomes relevant. But that’s another Question...

| improve this answer | |
$\endgroup$
1
$\begingroup$

I think the other answers miss a few points. I think we can assume the pilot knows where he was when he was kidnapped, no? So the first thing to do, after making sure the plane is in stable flight, is to check the fuel gauges. Assuming the Cessna is a 172 with standard tanks, it has 40 gallons usable fuel, enough for about 4.5 hours of flying. So check the fuel gauges, and see how much you have left. If the tanks are half full*, then given the 140 mph cruise speed, you can guess that you're within about 300 miles of where you started. Then start looking for familiar features like mountains, lakes, roads &c, which should be identifiable unless you're over the Amazon Basin or Canadian north. That will get you oriented, and you can probably find an airport, or some other good place to land.

*If they're close to empty, disregard the rest, and look for a spot to land, or do a survivable crash.

| improve this answer | |
$\endgroup$
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ A C172 with reliable fuel gauges? I suppose there must be one somewhere. $\endgroup$ – Dave Gremlin Mar 13 at 20:19
  • $\begingroup$ @Dave Gremlin: I wouldn't say reliable - I've never seen a vehicle with fuel gauges I'd really call reliable. But at least ballpark. (Better that my Miata, where I can fill up, drive about 250 miles before the gauge shows half full, and then be on empty 100 miles later.) $\endgroup$ – jamesqf Mar 14 at 19:09

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.