Flight Attendant forced to land plane after co-pilot suffers mental breakdown.

Posted on 20. Nov, 2008 by in Featured

So says the TIMESONLINE. Ah sorry, no; the fully 767-300 type rated, Air Transport Pilot and current Air Canada Captain landed the aircraft. A pesky little detail this “expertly” researched article (insert deep sarcasm here) didn’t get to until the fifth paragraph. Yes, I realize it makes for a snappy headline, but many people don’t read past a couple of paragraphs before clicking onto another story. So, no doubt, there are thousands who believe that the flight attendant was at the controls as the headline clearly states. And that simply is not true. Yellow journalism? Irresponsible? I will let the reader decide.

First the facts as provided by the Canadian Government: indeed a first Officer did in fact have a break down; and was forcibly removed by the cabin crew and subsequently restrained under the care of two Medical Doctors. After checking to see if any company pilots were on board, the Captain sought out any commercially rated pilots. One of the Flight Attendants was a commercial and instrument rated pilot (her instrument rating was expired) and the Captain had her sit in the co-pilot seat to assist in the approach. These facts made the fourth paragraph.

A little background: most commercial aircraft require 2 pilots, older models like the Boeing 727 and DC-10 require a flight Engineer as well. The Flight Engineer is normally a fully rated commercial pilot waiting to move up to the co-pilot seat in a normal progression based on seniority. I am type rated and have flown the 767-300; it requires two pilots (3 if the flight exceeds 8 hours in US/10 hours Canada). But only one pilot flies the aircraft at a time. By fly I mean actually control it. The other pilot (pilot not flying/controlling) handles the radio communication, reads the checklists and backs up the flying pilot.

So the “anti-headline-grabbing” truth is that the Flight attendant, again a rated commercial pilot, assisted the Captain by reading checklists and maybe talking on the radio for him. Not as the headline asserted; actually, physically controlling the Boeing 767-300 on landing. Not exactly time to cue up the writers for the movie “Airport 2008”.

I’m not in any way making light of her assistance, but I just can’t let an un-truth hang out there as fact. There is just a bit more to flying a 767 than plopping into the seat (insert more sarcasm here). She sure does have a resume’ bullet, scratch that, a resume’ Howitzer! Especially for a pilot position at Air Canada.

One Response to “Flight Attendant forced to land plane after co-pilot suffers mental breakdown.”

  1. lavonne 20 November 2008 at 15:46 #

    I fell for that headline yesterday and was disappointed when I read the story. It reminded me of an old Doris Day thriller I saw as a child. I was so scared during the landing sequence that my mother had to keep telling me, “It’s only a movie. It’s only a movie.”

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