So You've Been Asked To Land A Plane
I've been asked to land a plane.
This type, presumably, and not a two-dimensional mathematical surface.
Really? What happened to the actual pilots?
They got sleepy? I don't know. I didn't really ask.
You just immediately reverted to the model by which you base all your decisions -- action movies -- stood up, and loudly announced that you would land this plane.
Did anyone swoon?
I was hoping for that! But no.
Too bad. Worse, you don't know how to land a plane, do you?
Not precisely, no.
Which means you're now going to be less of a hero, and more of zero. Who crashes a plane into an orphan factory.
Oh god, what have I done?
Where are you now?
In the cockpit, crying. THERE ARE SO MANY BUTTONS.
Only one of which will land the plane.
I don't think that's how these buttons work.
But you're not sure, are you? Because you're a liar, liar. No, one of these buttons will save you. But it will be beside the button that opens all the doors, or the one that sends you hurtling into space.
What does the button look like?
It will be the radio one, I believe. Because you need some professional help. No dicking around this time. There are innocent lives at stake.
OK, what would a radio look like?
The buttons will say something about frequency or channels. Definitely nothing about opening all the doors. Wait. Easier solution. Is there a headset?
Put that on and shout into it.
ACE OF SPADES! ACE OF SPADES!
That's what you chose? Not "Help!" or something of that nature?
It's a reflex any time I'm near a microphone.
Fair enough. Any response?
Nope. I'm not hearing anything at all. It's all dead.
OK, let's think things through. You've been in charge of not killing everyone for a few minutes now, and have been more or less successful.
I have, haven't I?
Which means the plane's doing all the work.
I thought I read somewhere that these planes can land themselves these days.
As I understand it, they do have autopilot systems which are capable of landing, but they only work when the conditions are right, and you have to know how to set them up properly, and still need to know what the hell is going on so you can take over in the event something goes wrong. Computers aren't that smart yet.
Smarter than me, though?
Oh, thousands of times over, yes.
So maybe I should try using it?
Sure. But it's going to mean pressing one of these deadly buttons.
Hang on. Siri?
Did that work?
It didn't, surprisingly.
Hmm. OK, well let's at least entertain the possibility that we may have to land this plane ourselves. Now, I've been doing some calculations here, and I think you're going to need to reduce speed.
Are you sure?
Yes. At some point in the future, you're going to want your speed to be zero, and everyone to be crying and hugging you. Because you're traveling at a positive velocity now, that means you'll need to accelerate ... hang on ... decelerate to reach zero miles per hour.
You needed to run calculations to figure that out?
Do you want to get hurtled into space or not?
OK, how do I slow down?
... the pedal on the left?
I'll just mash it down, then?
Maybe ... Maybe mash it gently?
We turned left.
Really? What's the pedal on the right do?
Turns us right.
Try mashing it hard.
I'm not going to do that.
So what's the steering ... stick do, then?
I don't know.
It logically must control the brakes.
I don't know if that's how logic works.
Let's find out together! Push on the steering stick.
The nose of the plane is going down.
Ahh, good, yes. Just like a car does under heavy braking.
Uh ... how much do you actually know about planes?
Two wings. Emergency exits here, here, and here. Jokes about not-great food.
Is that it?
Planes fly because the pilot never looks down, which would break the spell.
It's not so bad. I have seen Airplane! like 7000 times, so at minimum I can ... amuse myself remembering Airplane! bits while you die.
No, I wasn't talking about that. Some fighter planes just flew by!
They think you're a terrorist.
A non-responsive plane diving towards a major population center? They kind of have to take that pretty seriously, I'm thinking. I'm grateful they're there, to be honest.
What should I do?
A barrel roll.
You'll have to evade them.
Won't that make me look more threatening?
It will, but what can they do about it? You'll have evaded them.
I don't ...
They'll be all, "Derp derp derp, we lost them, command," and then they'll fly back to their helicarrier.
I think you're selling our nation's fighter pilots a little short. And possibly overselling the capabilities and general existence of our nation's helicarriers.
Yeah, you're probably right. Shooting down an airliner probably isn't that hard for them. You'd also quite likely crash -- or get hurtled into space -- if you even tried a barrel roll. OK. Let's think this through. The fighters. Are they flying alongside you, sternly waving at you to pull over?
Wave back. But, like, in a non-threatening way.
What's a non-threatening way to wave?
Slightly floppy-wristed? With a big smile? Also, you should show them that you're not armed.
Take off your clothes.
A naked man cannot have a weapon on him.
Right, sure. But other than your Gentleman's Pistol there, you'll be unarmed. They'll see that, and conclude you're harmless.
No, it's in the Sky Code. A naked pilot is one in distress.
Guaranteed. Try it and find out.
*some shuffling around*
How's it going?
I just wish I'd been to the gym more lately.
Yeah, especially if a fighter pilot is going to see you. Those guys are so cool.
OK, it's done. So what do I do now?
Just wave and dangle pitifully in the window.
Do you look wretched?
I think so. And they look pretty disgusted.
At the minimum, you've bought yourself some time. Now then, let's get back to landing this thing. Do you see a runway anywhere?
Like right in front of me.
That's good. Suspicious, even. I wonder ...
You wonder what?
Nothing. OK, I've got a plan here. So, I've done some Googling.
You've done some Googling?
That's how a lot of the advice industry works now, yeah. Anyways, I found the manual to the 1995 edition of Flight Simulator.
Oh, that should help.
Now then. Do you know if the flight systems of this plane were installed by CD-ROM or floppies?
I don't know what either of those things are.
All right. Is your flight stick connected through a serial or parallel port?
I have no idea.
Well, crawl under the dash there and find out!
Should I be at all concerned that the ground is rapid hurtling towards us?
Better that than space. And until we get this flight stick thing figured out, there's nothing we can do! Now hurry!
What am I looking for, exactly?
There should be a cable.
There are two pedals and no cables.
Well we'll have to reboot then.
Wh- ... HOLY SHIT.
Did you do anything?
I shat myself a tiny bit.
Huh. That's what I thought. I deduced that the pilot must have set the auto-landing systems before he passed out.
So I didn't need to do anything?
I just had to keep you from fucking anything up.
Couldn't you have done that while I was comfortably seated?
Let me think ... Yes. Easily.
Thanks for that.
Hey, at least you made it down safely, and both you and the plane are no worse for the wear.
The floor of the cockpit here is a little worse for the wear, actually.
Congratulations! You have now no longer been asked to land a plane! You have been asked to never land a plane again! Should you desire any further assistance, please consult our guide So Delta Has Sent You A Sizable Bill For Steam Cleaning.
Chris Bucholz is a Cracked columnist and not a trained pilot. He'd like to thank Lazer72 for the column idea, and for inspiring him to watch Airplane! a few more times. His first novel, Severance, is incredible and available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or Apex Books. Join him on Facebook or Twitter.
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