Truth be told, I've never had cable TV, but the Discovery Channel's “MythBusters” series has always struck me as a fun and useful idea for a program. A sort of Snopes.com of the airwaves, it seeks to prove or dispel various urban legends and generally wacky propositions—for example, can a person really become stuck to an airplane toilet seat by flushing it during flight?
With commercial aviation as rich as it is with mysteries and misconceptions, it's perhaps no surprise that plane-related topics are among the show's most frequent. Most recently, hosts Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman attempted to find out if people with no flight training, namely themselves, could safely land an airliner. Their answer turned out to be yes, probably.
The correct answer, of course, is no, absolutely not. But who am I to quibble?
Several years ago I had the opportunity to “fly” an airplane. A friend's girlfriend's father, a flight instructor for the Miami International Airport, invited a bunch of us down to his facility one weekend wherein we all got to “fly” an Airbus 320 commercial jet plane.
Or rather, ride in an incredible simulation of one—the very same simulators they use to train pilots.
Now granted, he was there with us in the “cockpit” telling us what to do, but even so, I found landing the airplane quite easy. In fact, it was much easier to land the Airbus 320 than it ever was to land any number of craft on various microcomputer simulations like Microsoft Flight Simulator. In fact, of the four of us there, three were able to successfully land the craft on the first attempt (and the failure? That was because Chuck didn't approach the runway straight on, and attempted a last ditch maneuver to straighten out since he was too impatient to skip and try again).
Now, I saw the Mythbuster's episode in question, and it was very clear that with no instruction what-so-ever, it can't really be done (as both Adam and Jamie crashed when they attempted to land with no instruction).
But with instructions? Landing one of those modern bad boys is plausible.
Heck, I managed to land one under similar conditions.
Sounds like that pilot up there ate some sour grapes.