“I have a serious problem here,” the passenger told air traffic control. The pilot was unconscious. He wasn’t sure where he was, but he knew he could see the Florida coast.
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The report was forwarded to Robert Morgan, an air traffic controller as well as an experienced pilot and flight instructor.
On WPBF-TV Morgan tells how he was quietly reading a book outside the tower at Palm Beach International Airport on Tuesday afternoon during his break when he was notified of the emergency. “There is a passenger who is flying an airplane but he is not a pilot. The pilot is unconscious!” shouted a colleague at Morgan.
The pilot was said to have become unwell and then collapsed. The plane, a Cessna 208, then took a nosedive. But the passenger then grabbed the controls and straightened the small plane again.
Morgan told the American news channel that the moment he was in contact with the passenger, he knew it was very important to keep him calm as he guided him through the nerve-wracking process.
“I knew the plane flew like any other plane. So I had to calmly guide him to the runway by telling him how to reduce the power so he could descend,” he said.
Air traffic control managed to locate the aircraft. 40 kilometers from Palm Beach. “Hold your wings horizontal and try to follow the coast, north or south. Push the controls forward and descend at a very slow pace,” Morgan told the passenger.
Fast to pregnant woman
The passenger, without any flying experience, managed to land the aircraft safely. “Before I knew it, I thought, ‘I’m on the ground. How do I turn this thing off?’” the passenger said to Morgan. Who hugged the sober man on the asphalt.
“It felt really good to help someone, and he told me he was going home tonight to see his pregnant wife,” the air traffic controller said.
“You just witnessed a passenger land a plane,” another controller radioed to other pilots at the airport. “A passenger?” asked an American Airlines pilot. “That’s right,” was the response. “Oh my God. Great job,” he said in surprise.
An aviation expert told WPBF-TV that this enthusiasm is still an understatement, given the great performance the passenger delivered. John Nance emphasizes that the passenger listened very carefully and followed instructions calmly. “That makes the difference.”
It is currently unknown what the condition of the pilot who became ill is unknown. The US aviation authorities are investigating the event. The passenger’s identity has not been reported by authorities. But according to CNN it would be Darren Harrison.