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As commercial aviation becomes ever more accessible and routine, travelers sometimes lose sight of the critical importance of the flight crew. Yes, most flights today are highly automated — many pilots operate aircraft with autopilot turned on from seconds after takeoff to only a minute or two before landing. Still, the pilots remain in total control of their planes. Nearly all decisions and operations, automatic or not, must be approved by the flight crew. Pilots are irreplaceable because — unlike automated computers — they’re capable of adapting and thinking critically, which are both pertinent to flying airplanes. In the rare case of an in-flight emergency, it takes a well-trained human being to determine the best course of action and then execute that plan effectively.

In this crazy aviation video, we see first-hand how a pilot takes the reins when needed. This LOT 767, flight 16 from Newark (EWR) to Warsaw (WAW), experienced a hydraulic failure in the system that controls the landing gear retraction. Airliners are equipped with alternate means of deploying landing gear, but in this case the circuit breakers that controlled that had also malfunctioned. After circling the airport for an hour to burn off excess fuel and make the airplane as light and fire resistant as possible, veteran 767 captain Tadeusz Wrona executed a beautiful belly landing.

All passengers and crew were evacuated immediately with no injuries reported. As in other instances of landing gear malfunctions (like the JetBlue A320 that landed with crooked nose gear), Captain Wrona made sure to keep the airplane nose up as long as possible, to minimize friction, particularly around the engines, along with many other minutiae that he had to keep in mind to avoid total disaster.

Have you ever experienced an emergency landing first hand?

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