Passenger with zero flying experience lands plane safely in Florida after pilot falls ill

Positive Florida man story.

Belmont Lay | May 12, 2022, 06:58 PM

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A passenger without any flying experience safely landed a plane at a Florida airport on May 10 after the pilot was unable to do so due to a medical emergency.

The plane, a single-engine Cessna 208, landed around 12.30pm at Palm Beach International Airport, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said.

FAA was investigating the incident that happened on Tuesday afternoon.

The aircraft had departed from Marsh Harbour in the Bahamas 1.5 hours earlier.

Only the pilot and two passengers were on board, the FAA said.

Their names were not released.

What happened

At about 12pm, about an hour into the flight, the pilot said he was feeling unwell and slumped against the controls, according to FAA's blog post.

The plane went into a nose-dive and a sharp turn.

One of the passengers was forced to take over during the flight and stabilise the plane.

Pilot 'incoherent'

According to audio, the passenger told air traffic control: “I’ve got a serious situation here. My pilot has gone incoherent and I have no idea how to fly the airplane.”

The passenger also said he did not know where the plane was.

“I see the coast of Florida in front of me, and I have no idea,” said the passenger, who was also struggling to turn on the navigation system.

The exchange with the air traffic controller lasted nearly 10 minutes.

At one point, the passenger asked: “Have you guys located me? I can’t even get my nav screen to turn on. It has all the information on it. You guys have any ideas on that?”

Told to hold wings level

The passenger on the plane, then about 20 miles (32km) east of Boca Raton, was told to hold the wings level, follow the coastline and attempt to slowly descend.

That occurred after the plane was located.

Air traffic control at Palm Beach International Airport then took over.

Relied on printout of plane's cockpit

Robert Morgan, the air traffic controller who helped the passenger successfully land the plane in Palm Beach, described the experience in an interview with local news station.

“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,” Morgan said.

Morgan said in an interview released by the FAA that he had never flown a Cessna 208 aircraft before.

This was despite him being an experienced air-traffic controller and flight instructor.

Morgan instructed the passenger on how to land and stop the plane after a co-worker printed out images of the plane’s cockpit.

“Before I knew it, he said, ‘I’m on the ground, how do I turn this thing off?’ ” Morgan told WPBF.

He hugged the passenger after his arrival on the tarmac.

Becoming a private pilot with a single-engine class rating requires at least 40 hours of flight time, including at least 10 hours of solo flying and multiple takeoffs and landings, according to federal aviation laws.

In a separate recording, another air traffic controller could be heard telling pilots: “You just witnessed a couple of passengers land that plane.”

“Did you say the passengers landed the plane?” an American Airlines pilot asked.

“Oh my God. Great job.”

Top photo via WPTV