Autoland

Can airplanes land themselves?

Yes…ish. Some of them can under some circumstances.

“Autoland” is a feature on some larger airlines. But it has limits:

My research indicated that it is used, but only rarely – mainly when the visibility is so low that the pilot can’t see anything, so the only way to land is via instruments.

Why I Looked It Up

The pilot episode of Fringe had a flight on which some very bad things happened to everyone (it involved skin melting – it was pretty graphic). The plane supposedly landed itself in Boston.

I was curious if this was a real thing, or if they just make it up for the plot, since they had to get the plane on the ground in one piece for the team to investigate it.

While technically possible, the unrealistic thing in Fringe is that the bad things happened during the middle of the flight, and it seems that the plane just continued on by itself and landed. That doesn’t match what I’ve been reading. My research indicates that autoland is actively initiated very late in a plane’s flight (like, right before final approach), rather than the plane just thinking, “Well, there’s the airport…I guess I better land myself.”

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