A passenger in the United States managed to land a single-engine aircraft with the help of radio instructions from a flight controller after the pilot of the plane collapsed during the trip. The incident happened on Tuesday afternoon (10/5) in Palm Beach, Florida (USA).
In the cockpit recording, the man’s voice can be heard telling the airport tower that he “didn’t know how to stop the plane”.
“I have a serious condition. My pilot is not fit”, the man says over the radio, as the plane is flying at 2,750 metres. “He’s out.”
Asked about his condition, he said, “I don’t know.” He said he could see the Florida coast in front of him.
“Keep your wings straight and try to follow the north or south coast,” said the air traffic controller. “We’re trying to find you.”
“I can’t even turn on my navigation screen,” the man said. “It has all the information. Do you have any idea about it? I don’t know how to stop the plane. I don’t know how to do anything.”
Robert Morgan, an air traffic controller who works as an aviation professor, helped the man land at Palm Beach International Airport.
Even experienced, Morgan had never piloted that model? A single-engine Cessna 208?, but the pilot managed to use a map of the plane’s cabin to give directions.
“I knew the plane was flying like any other plane. I knew I had to keep it [o passageiro] Keep calm, show the way to the runway and teach him how to lower the power so he can land,” Morgan told local TV network WPBF-TV.
In the audio recording, Morgan teaches the man to “shift the controls and descend very slowly” as he approaches for the landing.
“Before I knew it, he said, ‘I’m on the floor. How do I get this thing off?'” Morgan says.
Passenger and Morgan met on the runway, where they hugged and took a picture. But amid the excitement, Morgan did not hear the man’s name, a WPBF reporter told BBC News.
The name was not even recorded in the radio audio.
“I felt like I was about to cry, because it was so much adrenaline,” Morgan told CNN. “It was an emotional moment. He said he wanted to go home to find his pregnant wife … and that made me feel even better.”
“To me, he was the hero,” he continued. “I was just doing my job.”
After the plane landed, Morgan praised the passenger while talking to the other pilots on the runway.
“You just saw a passenger take off on that plane,” he told another pilot waiting to take off.
“Did you say the passengers landed the plane?” The pilot replied. “Oh my god. Great job.”
The Federal Aviation Administration said the plane is registered at a private address in the state of Connecticut.
It took off about an hour before Marsh Harbor in the Bahamas, according to flight tracker FlightAware.
The pilot was taken to the hospital. The pilot’s name and position were not released.