Miraculous!: Passenger with no flying experience landed a Plane safely after pilot falls ill
Darren Harrison was one of two passengers in the Cessna 208 plane flying from the Bahamas to Florida.
Harrison’s pilot said he wasn’t feeling well and he unexpectedly fell against the controls of the single-engine plane, putting the plane into a nosedive. Although the nature of the pilot’s medical condition has not been disclosed, the pilot is being treated in the hospital.
Harrison is the executive of an interior design company. When Harrison saw his pilot lying over the controls, he suddenly jumped into action.
In audio from a call he made to air traffic control at Fort Pierce tower, Harrison said “I’ve got a serious situation here. My pilot has gone incoherent. I have no idea how to fly the aeroplane.”
Control Room replied: “ATC: 333 Lima Delta, Roger, what’s your position?”
Harrison: “I have no idea. I can see the coast of Florida in front of me but I have no idea.”
Control Room: “Maintain wings level and just try to follow the coast, either northbound or southbound. We’re trying to locate you.”
Harrison have no flying experience, he climbed over three rows of seats and jumped into the cockpit. Then he immediately moved the pilot out of his seat and took a pair of headphones to make contact with air traffic control.
“The pilot was slumped over on the controls and then they pushed him back, they get him out of his seat, then they have to get on the controls and pull back the plane so that it would climb up out of the dive it was in,” said Robert “Bobby” Morgan, a part-time flight instructor with experience piloting Cessna Aircraft.
“I just said, ‘You look great, you’re a little fast, what I want you to do is grab the throttle. Just pull that back a little bit cause we need you be slowed down,’” he recalled.
“I knew the plane was flying like any other plane. I just knew I had to keep him calm, point him to the runway and tell him how to reduce the power so he could descend to land,” said Mr. Morgan.
All departures at the Palm Beach International Airport were impeded, emergency responders sprung into action and other vehicles and aircraft were moved away from the runway to make space.
“We’ve never had anything like that … I felt like I was in a movie,” Morgan said. “Everybody wanted to participate and came out of the offices to assist in any kind of way.”
When the Cessna 208 aircraft was up to land at the runway, it slowly disappeared from the radar, Morgan said.
“It must’ve been no more than 10 seconds. And I kept trying to talk to him and he said, ‘I’m on the ground, what do you want me to do now?'” Morgan recalled. “My heart just kind of sank just thinking, Thank God.”
After the aircraft landed, Mr. Morgan praised the heroic passenger. Someone is heard saying, “Man, they did a great job.”
“Did you say the passengers landed the plane?” the pilot responded. “Oh, my God. Great job.”
When Harrison landed the plane on the highway, he didn’t know how to stop the plane. To help him, the controllers instructed him on how to brake and adjust the levers.
After the safe landing, one person was immediately taken to a hospital, the Palm Beach County Fire Rescue said. The passengers are safe, the Federal Aviation Administration said.
Mr. Morgan praised Harrison as his best student ever.
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