What would happen if a plane doesn’t respond to the controls at 35,000 feet?

My favorite pilot, my dad, was tooling along at about 35,000 ft with the autopilot on and not a care in the world. When all of a sudden…


The aircradt shuddered violently in the air and slowed way down. The idiot lights lit up the cockpit and alarms rang. The aircraft was losing altitude rapidly, falling out of the sky.

He pulled on the yoke. Nothing. He tried another maneuver. Nothing.

The aircraft kept dropping. Losing altitude, and nothing was working.

Finally, once they hit about 15k feet, he pulled back on the controls and the aircraft responded.

He aimed straight for the nearest airport, and eventually realized the gear was already down.

The landing gear had dropped when they were at altitude creating so much drag that the control surfaces were unusable. When they reached a lower altitude, the aircraft could fly and maneuver again.

Once they changed the landing gear release mechanism, and my dad changed his shorts, they were on their way again.

Which bit do you mean by controls?

The levers and switches etc or the control surfaces?

Locked control surfaces (including engine throttle controls) would mean you crash and die.

Locked levers and switches mean you might be lucky and auto pilot keeps the aircraft straight and level until you run out of fuel. Then when the auto pilot disengages, you crash and die.

If an airplane’s flight controls fail, it’ll crash plain and simple. Good pilots will do what they can to restore the flight controls, or try to fly the airplane using thrust alone.

United Airlines had a B-727 blow the center engine on the tail. This area contained all of the hydraulics for the controls. After trying many different methods of controls the aircraft they finally tried just using the throttles on the two remain engines to control the aircraft. Landing was a very different story! However, they were able to crash land the aircraft just using the throttles. Out of 80 some passengers only a small number died. Of course there were many many injuries, some of which were serious.

Since that happened United corrected that problem.

Cancel Christmas

then you would use differential thrust, by varying engine power you can make turns, ascend and descend, but if that control is lost then you are pretty much screwed