Can a pilot fly ANY plane?

King AirPatrick Smith from Salon.com’s Ask the Pilot answered an interesting question about whether a pilot who has completed basic training on one aircraft would automatically have the skills capable of safely flying and landing another type of aircraft. As Patrick explains it, this is a TRICKY question to answer.

In the recent case involving the death of a pilot at the controls of a King Air where a student pilot with 130 flying hours on a Cessna took control and safely landed the aircraft, Patrick is not surprised that he safely landed the plane BUT he wouldn’t have been surprised if he had crashed the plane either. As he explains it, different planes may have the same feel while flying BUT operationally they can be worlds apart. Thus, Patrick still stands by past comments about the chances of an individual without any formal flight training actually landing (safely) a commercial airplane:

Despite what you may have seen in contrived, made-for-TV movies, it would be all but impossible. The nonpilot has about as much chance of landing a 737 as somebody without medical training performing successful brain surgery.

The main point from Patrick’s post is that pilots and would be pilots must NEVER assume that training on one type of aircraft means they can now safely handle another type of aircraft without having had extensive training on that particular model. The basic principles might be the same but as Patrick puts it, “the devil is in the details!”

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One Response to Can a pilot fly ANY plane?

  1. Patrick Smith March 7, 2010 at 02:01 #

    It's almost a year old at this point, but belated thanks for citing my article.

    – PS

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