#3. A Pilot Answers Text Messages and Forgets to Lower the Landing Gear
Jetstar flight JQ57 was on its final approach into Singapore's Changi Airport on May 27, 2010, and things seemed to be well in hand, with a veteran pilot (13,000 flight hours) and seasoned first officer (4,000 hours) at the controls. However, at 2,000 feet, the pilot decided to check his incoming text messages. So, deciding that this task was more of a priority than, you know, landing the goddamn plane, the pilot began reviewing all the "sup playa"s and "WRU LOL"s in his inbox.
"its coo i can tlk babe, i don't do jack arnd here anyway."
As the plane angled nearer and nearer to the ground, the copilot felt a strange sense of unease, that somehow "something was not quite right." When he attempted to notify the pilot of his concerns, he received no response, as the pilot was "preoccupied with his mobile phone." With only 392 feet left before contact with the tarmac, the copilot finally figured out what was wrong: The pilot was so distracted by his phone that he had forgotten to lower the landing gear.
Suddenly able to break away from sending sepia-toned shots of the cockpit warning lights to Instagram, the pilot made a last-minute attempt to get the landing gear down, but by that point he would have had more success jumping out with some roller skates and trying to catch the plane on his back. Luckily, the copilot was able to make the save by jerking back on the yoke and throwing the plane skyward, which came as a rather unpleasant surprise to the 167 passengers on board.
"Yeah, that's not gonna happen, buddy. You'd better duck."
After an investigation, Jetstar officials stated that the lessons learned from the incident would be incorporated into their flight training, much to the consternation of those pilots who prefer a timely conclusion to their Words With Friends matches.
"Hold on, they're telling me I have to fly this fucking plane now."
#2. A Copilot Nearly Crashed the Plane Trying to Open the Cockpit Door
In September 2011, an All Nippon Airways Boeing 737-700 was en route to Tokyo from Okinawa when the pilot needed to leave his seat momentarily to go pee it up. Airlines generally require rigorous training for copilots, and the one on this flight had plenty of experience and no history of incompetence, so there seemed to be little reason for concern.
Unlike the pilot earlier, this one successfully escaped the bathroom without incident. He walked back to the locked cockpit door to be let back in. These doors are electronically locked (you know, safety and all that), so in order to allow the pilot back into the cockpit, the copilot had to press a button to unlock it. Unfortunately, in one of the most baffling design decisions of all time, the button happened to be right next to another button: the one that controlled the rudder.
"If you'll look out of your window, you'll see the last visual images to ever enter your brain."
So, as the pilot stood waiting at the door, probably still hunched over, adjusting his zipper, the plane suddenly nosedived, plunging 6,234 feet in 30 seconds and flipping almost completely over.
Thinking rationally is incredibly difficult when you're cartwheeling over the Pacific, but miraculously the copilot was able to collect enough of his shit to regain control of the aircraft. The pilot finally got through the gut-busting prank door of catastrophic life endangerment and was able to land without further mishap, with only a few people suffering minor bumps and bruises, and a dense fog of urine and Japanese swear words hanging thickly in the cabin.
"Just keep the Vicodin martinis coming and we'll all walk off this plane happy."
A senior executive vice president of the airline would later hold a press conference in reference to the incident that was notable for its innumerable deep apologetic bows. Promises were made that in the future pilots will be compelled to "do a double-check on where the controls are located as they leave and return to the cockpit," the phrasing of which is arguably more troubling than the incident itself.
#1. A Pilot Let His Kids Take the Controls and Predictability Ensued
In 1994, Yaroslav Kudrinsky was at the helm of Aeroflot Flight 593, carrying 75 passengers from Moscow to Hong Kong. Entertaining scenery is pretty hard to come by over remote Siberia, so he decided to get in some family time with his 15-year-old son and 12-year-old daughter and invited them both into the cockpit. No big deal, that's an exciting moment for a kid, and it's not like he was going to let them fly the plane.
But you know, it couldn't hurt if he just let them pretend to fly it for a while, right? So, with the craft on autopilot, Kudrinsky got up out of his chair and allowed both of his children to occupy the pilot seats while he demonstrated the various instruments.
"So you see, son, touching literally any of these would doom us all."
And really, what would be the harm in letting them fly it just a little bit? The passengers would probably agree that this is adorable. So, while his daughter played with the control column, Kudrinsky adjusted the autopilot heading to make it appear to the little girl that she was actually turning the plane. Not wanting to be left out of the fun, Kudrinky's son took a turn "steering" the plane.
Hey, did we mention that the autopilot is set to automatically disengage if somebody turns hard enough on the steering wheel? Because the plane assumes there is a problem and that you're trying to take control?
For instance, if you saw a hot chick in a bikini down below that you really wanted to get a better look at.
That is exactly what happened while the teenager was at the controls, so he suddenly went from pretending to fly to actually flying, sending the aircraft banking toward the earth.
This course deviation lasted for a disastrous 30 seconds before anyone was able to figure out what was going on, because there was no alarm system in place to alert the pilots when manual control had been re-engaged. By the time he realized what had happened, the bank had turned into a dive. But luckily, the pilot got the plane under control and everyone had a good laugh about it.
"Sorry, son, but the manual says I have to hit the eject button. See you on the ground."
Jesus. That kind of puts all of the previous stories in a completely different light, doesn't it? If your airline pilot does a good job the next time you fly, give him or her a pat on the back.
For more pilots who were a few cents short of a full dollar, check out 6 WWI Fighter Pilots Whose Balls Deserve Their Own Monument and The 6 Most Badass Airline Pilots To Ever Stare Down Death.