Passenger Flying Plane

Can a pilot legally let a passenger fly the airplane? I’m Amy E. Feldman.

After the pilot flying a single engine Cessna “went incoherent” last week, a passenger with no flight experience was talked through the landing by an air traffic controller. At no point was the passenger heard saying “Surely you can’t be serious.” Nor did the air traffic controller say, “I am serious, and don’t call me Shirley.” Although that would have been hilarious, hmm, probably not the time to give movie quotes. 

But passengers all over want to know: is it legal to let a non-pilot take the controls? Well obviously, if your choice is let a non-pilot pilot or, you know, crash, no one’s gonna bother discussing the legality. But it is surprising to learn that there’s no law that prevents a private pilot from allowing a passenger to take command, provided the pilot maintains complete control and responsibility for the aircraft. So he can’t just hand over the controls and take a nap. 

Also, he might want to ask: nervous? Yes. First time? And then wait to hear if the passenger replies: No, I’ve been nervous lots of times.

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