Talk-down aircraft landing

A talk-down landing may be attempted in the event of the death or incapacitation of an aircraft pilot. It involves a passenger or other unqualified person flying the aircraft to a landing with assistance from radioed instructions either from the ground or a nearby aircraft.

There is no record of a talk-down landing of a large commercial aircraft. There have, however, been incidents where qualified pilots travelling as passengers or flight attendants on commercial flights have taken the co-pilot's seat to assist the pilot.[1]

  • In August 2000, the pilot of a single-engine Piper Cherokee collapsed over the controls. A passenger, Henry Anhalt, took over the controls of the plane and managed to land the airplane safely with radio talk-down assistance from an airborne flight instructor. He, his wife, and their three sons landed safely, although the aircraft was damaged on landing.[2]
  • In an incident in April 2009, a passenger took over control of a twin-engine turboprop Beechcraft King Air after the pilot lost consciousness, and managed to land the plane safely. The passenger was a pilot but had never flown a Beechcraft King Air before.[3]
  • On 27 May 2011, a woman had landed an airplane of unidentified type, with talk-down assistance from another airborne pilot, after her husband had breathing difficulties.[4]
  • In April 2012, the pilot of a twin-engine Cessna 414 aircraft lost consciousness while flying in Wisconsin. His 80-year-old wife Helen Collins, who had only piloted a single-engine aircraft many years earlier, was able to contact air traffic control. Air traffic controllers and the pilot of a shadow aircraft then provided instruction and she was able to crash-land the plane without serious injury. Her husband did not survive his medical emergency.[5]
  • In October 2013, the pilot of a Cessna 172 aircraft became unwell whilst flying from Skegness, Lincolnshire, England. His 77-year-old passenger, John Wildey, who had served in the air force but not as aircrew, controlled the plane for over an hour and landed it safely at Humberside Airport under instruction from air traffic controllers, two flying instructors, and the crew of a Westland Sea King helicopter. The pilot was taken to hospital, where he was pronounced dead.[6]
  • On 31 August 2019, the instructor of a two-seater Cessna 152 aircraft (registration VH-TFR) lost consciousness whilst on a flying lesson from Jandakot Airport, Perth, Western Australia. The 29 year-old student, Max Sylvester, on his first flying lesson, landed the aircraft undamaged following practice approaches, assisted by ATC and an instructor via radio.[7]


  1. ^ Bucktin, C. (3 June 2014). "Off-duty pilot lands plane and saves 160 passengers after captain suffers heart attack". Mirror Online. Retrieved 18 July 2014.
  2. ^ "Passenger lands plane safely". ABC News. 7 August 2011. Archived from the original on 30 January 2011. Retrieved 21 April 2019.
  3. ^ "Passenger lands plane in Fla. after pilot dies". USA Today. 14 April 2009. Retrieved 21 April 2019.
  4. ^ "Passenger lands plan after pilot becomes ill". AOL News. 27 May 2011. Retrieved 21 April 2019.
  5. ^ "Wisconsin wife, 80, lands plane for dying pilot husband". ABC News. 3 April 2012. Retrieved 21 April 2019.
  6. ^ Hui, Sylvia (9 October 2013). "Passenger lands small plane after pilot falls ill". The Associated Press. Archived from the original on 15 September 2020. Retrieved 15 September 2020.
  7. ^ "Trainee pilot makes emergency landing at Jandakot Airport after instructor blacks out". ABC. 1 September 2019. Retrieved 2 September 2019.