How to land a passenger jet without any flight controls

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I highly recommend the movie Charlie Victor Romeo if you find the story interesting. It’s a single camera stage-play format (as that’s what it’s based on) focusing on the cockpit during a few significant aircraft events.


Great article. One small correction: the plane crashed in Sioux City Iowa, not Sioux Falls (SD). I was working in a building across the river (the place is flat) and could see the smoke and flames from the crash. Incredible that anyone survived…


Ah, I’m in too delicate a mood to watch stuff like that. Incredible piece of piloting.

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Looks very well done. I wish I had time right now to see the whole thing.

I read a book last year that analyzed a number of different plane crashes and made a set of survival recommendations based on shared characteristics of previous crash survivors. Here are some of those recommendations:

-Sit within 6 rows of an emergency exit.
-Sit in an aisle seat.
-Wear close-toed shoes that will stay on your feet (no flip flops, sandals, etc.).
-Wear long pants.
-Wear all natural fibers, nothing that will melt and fuse to your skin.
-Pay attention to the safety briefing, and read the safety instructions.
-Put your hands on your life preserver so that you know where it is and what it feels like. If your seat doesn’t have one (as is sometimes the case), request one from the flight attendant prior to takeoff or request a change of seats.

I think we’ve all heard that travel by plane is the safest form of travel. Surprisingly, your chances of surviving an aircraft accident are more than 90%.

Statistically speaking, fit people of medium build are more likely to survive than others. People who have difficulty moving through the cabin under normal circumstances will have significantly reduced chances of survival. Men are more likely to survive than woman. People aged between 20 and 40 are more likely to survive than other age groups.

In the author’s analysis, he did not find that a certain part of the plane was more survivable than others. The tail is no better than the wing. It all comes down to proximity to emergency exit. If there is fire, you have a limited amount of time to evacuate the plane before the aluminum frame and skin ignite. If you are still in the plane when that happens, it’s bad news.


Well, I’m definitely copying this locally.

Two wrongs don’t make a right, but three rights make a left.


And that’s One to Grow On.™


Don’t fly on DC-10s.

Luckily, not many around any more anyway.


I wish MH370 would dis-appear

I was on a United DC-10 out of San Francisco in early January 1990 (six months after this) when the rear engine had a similar (although much less catastrophic) failure. First, there was an odd whiff of smoke, then the airplane rattled like an off balance washing machine, and then the rear engine did the equivalent of throwing a rod – went off balance and failed completely. Two loud bangs and you could feel the airplane torque under your ass.

I was sitting by the FA’s jump seat and I’ve never – before or since – seen an FA that nervous. Absolutely rock calm in manner, though. Immediately – I suppose were out over Stockton or so – the plane started dumping fuel as fast as it could. This was a fully loaded flight to Boston and they weren’t going to just burn off fuel, as is ordinary in situations where a return is mandated, but just drain as much as they could.

Anyway, back to SFO without incident, but when we landed, the plane bottomed as far down as it could go on the gear. Felt like it in the ground, but of course it didn’t. After about six more hours, they found us a new plane and when they finally got us back in the air they asked us if there was anything they could do for us – 100 people shouted “Free Drinks!”

But it was United, so no free drinks.


A friend of my wife survived that crash. She said that because the crash happened so quickly when they thought they had made it down, and because survivors came to rest in a corn field well above head high, it was completely surreal. She, like a lot of other survivors thought they had actually died, since they’d seen Field of Dreams, which came out only a couple months earlier.


Damn… i hoped for a more “Gimli glider” type of ending.

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Actually its the layout of the engines on the DC-10 which makes this trick easier to carry off. The center engine has a different attitude to the left and right engines, and can be used to control the pitch of the aircraft.

Having said that, wing mounted engines cause a huge positive pitch moment when their thrust is increased, because they are below the center of drag of the aircraft. Light aircraft have less pitch trim than normal pitch control, while it is the reverse on commercial jets. This is to offset the effect of the engines pushing the nose up.

One factor in a recent crash in Russia may have been the aircraft automatically trimming down when the engines came on, then not being able to trim up fast enough when the engines reduced thrust.

edit: and the problem with only having engines below the wing is that you can only pitch up with the engines on high thrust. What you want is a high angle of attack (pitched up) with the engines at idle. If you have control of the pitch trip on a DC10, you can use the center engine to push the nose down, then cut the power to flare.

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Don’t you mean dis-dis-appear?

Brown ones.


But it’s the crappy hydraulics design that allowed the uncontained failure of the centre engine to take out all three systems that causes this problem in the first place.They weren’t using it to control flight.


I just made time (it’s only 13 minutes) and it’s incredible viewing (especially for someone like me who wasn’t aware of the story).

Well yeah when so much energy is going through your engines it helps to hang them from the wings rather than having them just above the rear galley. You can drop one and carry on.