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Guest AusDarren

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Guest AusDarren

When the airline flight deck calls, private pilot answers


It's a safe bet that most private pilots will never be asked to help out on the flight deck of a Boeing 757 airliner during an actual in-flight emergency. But that's exactly what happened to pilot Stephen W. Brown of Albuquerque, New Mexico. He was traveling on a commercial flight from Houston to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, on January 24 when the captain became incapacitated and later died.


Brown, who earned his private pilot certificate in August 2006 and has logged slightly more than 150 hours, was asked to assist the now captain in the cockpit during the flight's successful diversion to McAllen Miller International Airport in McAllen, Texas.


He described being thrust into the situation as "unbelievably humbling." His first thought upon entering the cockpit was "clearly I can't do much to help." Yet despite his unfamiliarity with the complexities of the B-757-300 cockpit, his own crew resource management (CRM) training kicked in and he realized that he had something to offer.


For starters, Brown recognized that while he didn't know the airplane at all, at least he knew something about airplanes  far more than the average Joe. A strong believer in the value of CRM and making best use of all available assets (he asks his daughter to read checklists and scan for traffic when they fly together), he also realized that "any help was good help" in this situation.


He assisted by working the radios during the remainder of the flight. He also adjusted the altimeter setting on the first officer's side as the flight descended through Flight Level 180 (the B-757 has three altimeters) and read checklists to the captain. Brown also located the appropriate ILS chart for the captain's instrument approach into McAllen and extended flaps and landing gear on cue.


Brown, who just the month before began working on his instrument rating, was thrilled to see the aircraft aligned exactly on centerline as the flight broke through an 800-foot cloud deck. "That's cool, that's perfect," he thought.


He said the view looked similar to that of a Cessna 182 he usually flies. But then he looked at the airspeed indicator. Big difference.


A partner in a successful heating and refrigeration business in Albuquerque, Brown has no plans for a career change. However he admits to being "obsessed" with flying and intends to move up soon to a faster airplane, one better suited to the kinds of business and pleasure flying he typically does.  Vincent Czaplyski


Vincent Czaplyski holds ATP and CFI certificates. He flies as a Boeing 757/767 captain for a major U.S. airline and is a frequent contributor to AOPA Pilot.


February 1, 2007


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I personally are a strong supporter of the "Right Hand Seat Course" for our partners that we most often fly with.


I have been trying to get Corrine to do a course on this and whilst they do not need to get their Certificate or know as much about flying as we need to, all they need to know is how to land an aircraft. After all if anything happened to you like a sudden blinding migraine where your eyes are affected, a heart attack etc why should they have to die simply because they can't just land the aircraft.


How about it all? Check your local school if they will start one of these type of courses and convince your partner to give it a go - who knows, they may even enjoy it and go all the way to getting their own Certificate.



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  • 3 years later...

This is a oldie, and a goody, i am wondering, how successful is the partner of pilots, courses been?. I mean how many are ran each year, it is a fantastic idea, tried to get my partner to do it, but she doesnt want to, i would like for her to do it.Cheers



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Guest drizzt1978

The other day whilst doing a return Nav; My Fiance has the map and is keeping track of where we are. I hear "crackle crackle.... XYZ on climb and will maintain devils bend reservoir at 3000ft for 5 min" or something to that affect. I ask her, where is devils bend on the map ( i know), she says "ohh that's directly in front, we will fly right over it, and we are 3000ft, shouldn't you talk to him or something" (to which i did) Smart girl for only her second NAV!!


She was the one who bought me 20hrs flying lessons for my 30th, its a match made in heaven!



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