After presenting himself to the cabin crew, Stephen Brown was asked to sit in one of the front passenger seats while the right-seat pilot switched sides. He then transitioned from a 182 cockpit to the glass screen spectacle that is a modern airliners command post. Gosh, theres a lot going on in there compared to a 182, he said. Brown said the pilot introduced himself as a 28-year veteran of this world. At that moment I was probably the least nervous person on the plane, he said. Brown said it was obvious the pilot was more than capable of safely landing the plane himself but the concept of cockpit resource management dictates that two sets of eyes, hands and feet are better than one and, despite his relative lack of experience, he was able to make a contribution. The pilot had Brown handle much of the radio work and other routine chores as he set up for the emergency landing at McAllen, Texas. He set the flaps at the pilots direction and also lowered the landing gear. Brown said he believes his help allowed the pilot to focus a little bit more on flying the plane first given the emotional impact of having his colleague collapse on the yoke beside him. He said he was struck by the professionalism and the obvious effect of rigorous and repetitive training that allowed the pilot to shake off the shock of the incident and concentrate on handling the aircraft. Brown said they broke out of the clouds at 800 feet and he was surprised at how familiar the view on final was to him. The aircraft landed without incident and Brown said he marveled at the professionalism of the whole crew in handling the emergency. Brown and the other passengers continued to Puerto Vallarta with a fresh crew.
Click here to hear AVweb’s exclusive podcast interview with Stephen Brown about his experience on the Continental flight.