What did the airplane do that made Brian realize he had to land the plane in Hatchet?
When the engine coughs and roars violently, Brian knows that the plane is going to crash.
Before the pilot has a heart attack, he shows Brian how to fly the plane, telling him that it’s easy. After the pilot dies, Brian tries CPR but it is no use. Attempts to use the radio to get help are also not going well, because he does not know his flight number or location. Brian feels alone and confused.
But between the seventeenth and eighteenth radio transmissions, without a warning, the engine coughed, roared violently for a second and died. There was sudden silence, cut only by the sound of the wind milling propeller and the wind past the cockpit. (Ch. 2)
Brian may have gotten a cursory lesson in flying a plane, but that is nothing compared to landing one. He is convinced that he is going to die. The plane will crash, and he will go down with it. Brian suspected that the plane would crash when it ran out of fuel. That appears to be what happened.
Brian is able to stabilize the plane by pulling the nose up, which slows its descent.
The controls became very loose-feeling and frightened Brian, making him push the wheel back in. This increased the speed a bit but filled the windshield once more with nothing but trees, and put the lake well above the nose and out of reach. (Ch. 3)
The plane does crash at the lake, but due to Brian’s quick thinking and intervention, he survives the landing. Brian did his best to guide the plane as it “fell into the wide place like a stone.” After the plane hits the trees, Brian escapes and swims to shore, where he passes out.
Although Brian is stranded alone in the Canadian wilderness with nothing but his hatchet, he is clearly an intelligent and sensitive young man. Not many kids with no experience would have been able to keep their head in a situation like this and land the plane. Now Brian will need that quick thinking to stay alive alone in the wild.