How can passengers help in the cockpit in an in-flight aviational crisis?

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  • How can passengers help in the cockpit in an in-flight aviational crisis? LePressentiment

    Suppose that an aircraft is in an exigency or emergency solely related to aviation (ie not a medical situation). Moreover, suppose that some airline passenger believes that he/she can help in the cockpit. Since the cockpit door is locked for security, how can he/she volunteer their services and enter the cockpit to try to help? In these possibly final moments, it's conceivable that someone with minimal flying experience, such as an amateur gamer of Microsoft Flight Simulator, could benefit, as opposed to passively affrighting and discomposing themselves while seated and awaiting death.

    Inherent in this question is the presumption that airline passengers would avail, and they may not, but here's a real-life instantiation. According to the Mayday episode on Air France Flight 447, in their attempts to recover from a stall, the first officer pushed his yoke upwards (fatefully) while the reserve copilot pushed his yoke downwards (correctly). Consequently, both opposite actions nullified each other and the plane continued its fall as a result of its stall.

    The captain was out of the cockpit at the start of the stall. He returned afterwards (I don't recall exactly when), spent some critical time surveying the control panel, but didn't apprehend the problem in time. I am dejected to imagine that a passenger might've straightaway discerned the discrepancy between their yoke controls (without spending time examining the instruments) and salvaged all.

    Please feel free to edit this post; I'm not an expert on aviation.

  • The short answer is to sit down, shut up, and stay the heck out of the way. That's what I would do. If you can quietly help the one or two people sitting next to you do the same, you're doing your part.

    Seriously, the last thing the flight crew needs in a flight emergency is extra distractions from passengers - especially those without directly relevant experience (e.g., an off duty airline pilot commuting home).

    Less seriously, it's a common fantasy/daydream among private pilots that some weird emergency results in them taking over the controls. Pre-9/11, I had the opportunity to try landing a 747 in one of the airline's full motion sims. (I have zero relevant experience in flying something that big). On the first landing, all the big pieces came to a stop on or near airport property. On the second attempt, I think I got most of the pieces to come to a stop on or near the runway. I doubt many people would have survived either attempt.

    My plan if this would ever happen in real life is to get on the radio & demand that an instructor tell me which buttons on the autopilot to push. If successful, I'd then go buy a lottery ticket before the crazy luck wears off :-)

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