Incapacitated Crew In Flight

Q: What would happen in a situation where entire crew was incapacitated? Are there any situations where this has happened?

“Is there a pilot onboard?” As far as I know, however, this has never occurred, except maybe in the movie Airport ’75. I doubt it would be possible for a non-pilot to land an airliner. Perhaps if the person were somehow able to establish communications, and were talked into setting up the aircraft for an autoland situation. But the odds are against a happy ending.


This Q&A is part of a collection that originally appeared on Salon.com. Patrick Smith, 38, is an erstwhile airline pilot, retired punk rocker and air travel columnist. His book, Ask the Pilot (Riverhead) was voted “Best Travel Book of 2004” by Amazon.com. Patrick has traveled to more than 55 countries and always asks for a window seat. He lives near Boston.