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How Easy is it to Pilot a 757?

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posted on Jul, 8 2005 @ 08:43 PM
OK, this may not belong in this forum, and I completely understand if any mod moves it somewhere else. However, I thought I'd post my question here because it seems like ATS has a fair amount of people well versed in the aviation arts, and many of them congregate here.

As anyone who has been on ATS for more than a day knows, there is some controversy over whether or not the people claimed to be piloting the planes that flew into the towers, and particularily the Pentagon, actually had the skills to fly them so precisely.

I don't pilot aircraft, and know very little about the skills involved. So my question is directed really at anyone who has flown a large aircraft (ie, a 757 or similar plane), or who may know anything about the skills involved.

This subject was briefly touched upon in another thread here, but was considered off-topic. The question has always been bugging me, and in a perfect world I'd take flying lessons just to answer the question for myself. Since I don't know any pilots, I thought I'd ask here:

What level of skill does one need to fly a 757 (or similar large aircraft) into a relatively small target?

(By the way, if you want to discuss other aspects of 9/11, there are plenty of other threads in which to do so, lets not turn this into one of those!).

Thanks for any info!

-koji K.

posted on Jul, 8 2005 @ 08:49 PM
Well, (as Im told) the basic aero-skills (if such a thing) are the same for almost all airplanes......roll-turn the wheel, yaw-use the pedals and pitch-pull or push on the wheel.

With this the basics can be achieved, anyone can fly I guess as long as they keep the airspeed up and don't stall.

Landing and take-offs is where the real brians come to play....which the terrorist did neither.

Again, that's just sportyism, Im sure a pilot can shed some light on this.....

[edit on 8/7/2005 by SportyMB]

posted on Jul, 8 2005 @ 11:07 PM
I don't know about a 757 but a few years ago, well prior to 9/11, I was able to start, take-off, and fly a simulated Gulfstream V under the Golden Gate Bridge. I was using MS Flight Simulator (with the sound turned OFF, who wants to listen to the tower chew you out for doing sumtin' that would get you arrested?). I had invested in a ThrustMaster (love that name! :lol
joystick, throttle and rudder control pedals.

I was flying in less than 1 hour; OK, so it took me a few minutes to remember to retract the landing gear, I'd never flown a plane before.

posted on Jul, 8 2005 @ 11:17 PM
if you want to find out, try x-plane. this simulator is so realistic, that some flight schools are using this to train pilots. (so i hear) there are literally hundreds of planes available in this sim, and it gives realistic representations of all flight controls. from a cesna to the space shuttle. i swear this is no b.s.

posted on Jul, 8 2005 @ 11:26 PM
As far as point to point flying, it's almost all done on autopilot. You turn a knob and it turns the plane to whatever course you dial in, sets the airspeed to whatever you set it for, holds the altitude, etc..... Takeoff isn't hard, you just have to watch out for overspeed on the gear, and flaps, and remember to throttle back so you don't damage the engines. Engines aren't meant to run at full power for more than a few minutes at a time. Turning and everything else, is very similar between any airplane, just with a 757 and other big jets you have a lot more weight you're slinging around the sky. The most difficult part of flying anything is landing. You hit the runway too hard and you can collapse the landing gear, land too long and you run off the end of the runway. It's really not hard to fly a 757 or any of the other heavies, until you want to land, or in the case of the 747 taxi. You're something like six stories up in a 747 so it's one of the hardest planes to taxi.

posted on Jul, 9 2005 @ 07:45 AM
I have spent a little time in a 737 simulator with a friend who pilots them for an airline. I asked the same question about how hard it would be to repeat the 9/11 incidents. He showed me how to operate the autopilot and I realized that it would be fairly easy to do. The previous poster is right the hard things are taking-off and landing. Once in the air the plane can be flown by using 4 knobs.

posted on Jul, 9 2005 @ 09:40 AM

You're something like six stories up in a 747 so it's one of the hardest planes to taxi.

Thats why they have those funny looking guys with the ear muffs on the ground! They direct you with their glowsticks!

posted on Jul, 9 2005 @ 10:41 AM
Well, the new planes are wery like eachother... however you can't just jump in a plane and expect to fly itself... lol... But the autopilot takes care of a lot nowdays... only the landings and the starts are made by hand...

posted on Jul, 9 2005 @ 04:34 PM

Originally posted by Figher Master FIN
Well, the new planes are wery like eachother... however you can't just jump in a plane and expect to fly itself... lol... But the autopilot takes care of a lot nowdays... only the landings and the starts are made by hand...

That's not entirely true actually. Some planes are capable of auto take off and auto landing - and most of the newer Boeing models use it all the time. (Airbus also uses auto takeoff and autoland computers.)

The 757-767-777 series of Boeing aircraft are considered by commerical pilots to be among the easiest aircraft to fly.
(How Hard Is It to Fly a 757 or 767? Todd Curtis, PhD)

The Boeing 777, 767, 757, and some upgraded (newer) 747-400's do not land manually, and they don't land completely by "autopilot". They use a combination of both. The reason they don't land on autopilot completely is because all airports do not all have the required hardware to guide the plane in with 100% accuracy.

This from Ask Captain Lim: (feel free to email Cpt Lim and ask him your own questions, I know he's always willing to answer when he has time to!) Captain Lim has been flying commercial airliners for over 7 years and has over 21000 hours logged in the air. I feel he's reputable enough to quote.

A Boeing 777 is capable of landing very safely on autopilot even in zero visibility but it is not currently authorized. Why? The cost of maintaining the ground equipment is prohibitive and so the authorities reduced the criteria from zero visibility to 100 meters as the absolute minimum to land at the present time. These lower criteria also reduce the maintenance costs as imposed by the aviation authorities. This would have opened many Airports that would otherwise be shut down.

The Instrument Landing System (ILS) provides a very accurate and safe guidance for an airplane to land on a runway in any weather conditions. It positions the airplane very precisely to land safely in the most adverse situations where a pilot would have great difficulty doing so. Bearing in mind that, about 75 percent of accidents are due to human errors and the landing phase is one of the most critical parts of a flight, air crashes have been reduced considerably when the ILS was introduced. An ILS can be flown manually or by coupling it to an autopilot, or to put it simply, let the computers fly the plane! Humans can never beat a machine and so, if a pilot wishes to manually fly the ILS to hone his flying skills, he is restricted to fly to a minimum of 200 feet above ground level and a visibility of 550 meters. Beyond that, he must seek the help of the machine! In other words, the airplane must be auto landed with the help of computers.

What happens when the computers fail at the critical moment? So, you still need human beings to save the day! Pilots are the back ups to machines. Hence, aircrew must undergo a thorough course in order to perform this task.

An auto landing process is achieved by an autopilot together with a flight director system. As the name suggests, the flight director directs where the plane go when the pilot or autopilot intend it to. To fly an ILS, the flight director would guide the airplane to land on a correct profile and towards the centerline of the runway by means of ground signals. In order to land safely, the airplane requires external feedbacks from the aerodrome.

Now we have a good Boeing 777 with auto landing capability, a qualified and competent pilot and the third link must now be excellent aerodrome facilities. Indeed, the maintenance of the aerodrome must be very high and comply with ICAO standards. What happens when the airplane is locked onto the signals on final landing in fog and there was a power failure on the ground? ICAO requires the back-up power with switchover time be not more than one second for all the critical electrical lightings.

Prior to an auto landing procedure, the Captain would give his copilot a very thorough briefing from how many minutes he has left before he commences a diversion to the procedures on what action to take if a pilot suffers a heart attack prior to landing. So every emergency is covered and nothing is left unprepared.

Assuming the Boeing 777 has now captured or locked onto the ILS at 2500 feet, the copilot would call out various stipulated heights to remind each other of the progress of the approach. The callouts would be at 2000, 1500, 1000, 500, 200 or (alert height) and decision height of 20 feet. The Captain must respond to all height checks and there are pre-planned actions, for instance when some responses are not forthcoming. If the Captain does not respond to a callout of the height-checks from 500 to 200 feet, the copilot would assume that his Captain has lost consciousness due to a heart attack or any incapacitation, then take over control and abort the landing. Why is it so? He is too close to the ground to find out! Ask questions later when he has safely aborted the landing! He is fully competent to do so because the copilot is checked every six month on this drill.

The auto landing procedure is executed automatically but the Captain still have to intervene to reduce speeds as the flaps are selected from 0, 1, 5, 20 and then to 30. At any time an emergency crops up, each pilot knows what to do because they have been covered during the briefing. Below 200 feet above ground level, the computers would ignore non-critical emergencies because pilots should not be disturbed at this very crucial phase of the landing.

At 50 feet, the autopilot flares the airplane, a term to describe how it would raise the nose slightly to prepare for a soft landing. The computer would call out aurally the heights every 10 feet and then at around 25 feet, the throttles are closed. At this point, the airplane should sit onto the runway gently and roll along the centerline until it comes to a complete stop by the auto brakes with the pilot aiding it further with reverse thrusts. You are now safely landed! If the Captain is unable to see the taxiway because the visibility has further reduced, he may request a ‘Follow Me’ vehicle to guide the pilot to its parking bay.

However, all that being said, at most major airports in North America, when you see a newer airliner coming in for a landing it is a computer landing that plane with the pilot and copilot (no more navigators in most planes these days) paying attention and being ready to engage reverse thrusters after wheels down, or in the rare case take over for an aborted landing. It's also a computer that flies the plane at takeoff. Human error was, and still is, the number one cause of all crashes (over 50%), and the new generation autopilot has reduced takeoff and landing mishaps dramatically.

[edit on 9-7-2005 by CatHerder]

posted on Jul, 9 2005 @ 04:42 PM
One of the more interesting problems they had with pilot profficiency and the 747-400 was the autolanding. Pilots are supposed to do so many landings a month to stay profficient, but the plane did almost all of the landing. It was like the last 100 feet or so that the pilots had to fly. There were a lof ot pilots having to go to the simulator to make landings to keep prfficient.

posted on Jul, 9 2005 @ 08:22 PM
Hey, starting in August I will be starting pilot training (hope to someday fly for an airline or military possibly), but have had some flight experience in the past with about 7 hours in a addition to countless hours on X-Plane.

Several months ago I was even able to get the chance to fly in an MD-11 full motion flight sim for an hour. Although though the MD-11 is considered one of the hardest airlines to fly, it still flew very similarily to any other plane, albeit it was not very responsive and landings were a bit tricky (especially in low visibility at night with a crosswind, which i tried a couple times ::cringes:
. Odd part was that taxing was one of the hardest things to do, requiring quite a bit of coordination and knowing when to start the turn so that you don't end up with one of the mains off the runway.

Overall though, I felt as though it wasn't too bad and so I'm sure that anyone with some past flight experience and just a few hours of time in a 757 or similar aircraft could easily operate it well enough to fly, maybe not to land, but well enough to crash into a building or small target.

[edit on 9-7-2005 by G8tsoHellrOpn4me]

[edit on 9-7-2005 by G8tsoHellrOpn4me]

[edit on 9-7-2005 by G8tsoHellrOpn4me]

posted on Jul, 9 2005 @ 08:37 PM
I've NEVER been able to taxi to save my life. lol. Not during pilot training when I was a kid, not in MS Flightsim, or in any flightsim I've ever flown. I can FLY really well, I just can't taxi at all.

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