Hero passenger lands light aircraft at Humberside airport after pilot friend passes out at the controls - then dies

Instructors hurriedly briefed John Wildey on the instruments and controls to help retired IT consultant executed safe landing

A hero passenger, who had to take the controls of a light aircraft when his pilot friend collapsed, said he “did not have a clue” how to get the plane down but later executed a safe landing despite having no flying experience.

Instructors hurriedly briefed John Wildey on the instruments and controls, explaining how to bring the plane on to the runway causing only a minimum of damage and reports of a few sparks.

“I just didn’t know what was going to happen with the uncertainty of it all. But in talking to me on the radio all the time that was helping me,” Mr Wildey said.

“I’ve never flown a plane before and I know you bring back the controls but I didn’t bring them back hard enough. So really I was nose down rather than anything else. Then we touched and it was a right bump – two or three bumps. I suppose it was a controlled crash really,” he added.

Mr Wildey, 77, a retired IT consultant, told the BBC he could not reach the brakes and thought he was going to crash on the ground fearing he would career off the runway. He said he tried repeatedly to rouse the pilot but he remained unconscious.

The mid-air drama sparked a major rescue operation as an RAF helicopter was scrambled to help bring the novice safely into Humberside airport near Grimsby, north Lincolnshire on Tuesday night without lights.

Roy Murray, who took part in the extraordinary rescue, said he felt “satisfied but sad” after learning that the pilot had later died. "He did a beautiful landing. I wouldn't be frightened to fly with him,” Mr Murray said.

The instructor said the atmosphere in the control tower had been extremely tense. They had been alerted to the situation by a mayday call by Mr Wildey and air traffic controllers had ordered him to circle whilst they summoned Mr Murray, chief instructor of the Frank Morgan School of Flying, from his home.

But although the passenger admitted to having a dry mouth he remained calm, bringing the Cessna 172 in at optimum speed and altitude after completing three practice circuits of the airport.  “It was tense at times, especially the last mile or so,” said Mr Murray.

“We couldn't see any lights on him. It was just a silhouette in the dark. We just had to judge he was the right height and the right speed, which he was. All due respect,” he added.

The terminal building and control tower at Humberside Airport (PA) The terminal building and control tower at Humberside Airport (PA)  

The control tower had been “ecstatic” when the plane touched down although there was no cheering and those involved in the rescue shook hands. The light aircraft was heading back to its base at Sandtoft airfield, near Doncaster, South Yorkshire, at 6.20pm when the pilot collapsed.

An RAF Sea King helicopter from RAF Leconfield was sent to help guide the plane to the airport to Humberside where a full emergency response crew was on standby.

Debbie Zost, operations managers at the airport in charge of air traffic control, said an investigation was under way and it was not yet possible to say which of the men in the plane made the mayday call.

David Learmount, operations and safety editor of Flightglobal.com said: “A guy with no flying experience would have found flying a light aircraft utterly different from driving a car. In a car, if you don't like what's happening you can bring it to a halt. You just can't do that in an aircraft. You can't fly slower than 60mph without falling out of the sky.”

Flight instructor Roy Murray who helped Mr Wildey land the plane (PA) Flight instructor Roy Murray who helped Mr Wildey land the plane (PA)  

How to land a plane in five easy steps

1. Sit down in the pilot’s seat. Try to relax. Do not touch anything. Fasten safety belt. Study the controls. There is a basic “six pack” of instruments which will show speed, altitude, direction and other features.

2. Using the central yoke (moving forward, back, left or right) level the aircraft by lining the wings with the horizon and bringing nose and tail into line. Stabilise altitude. Maintain steady speed using throttle (do not reduce below 70 knots). Use the rudder pedals to adjust the left right movement of the plane.

3. Call for help on the radio (handheld microphone normally to the left of the pilot’s seat). Make contact with controller). Explain situation and await instructions.

4. Begin descent: Aim at airfield, lower landing gear (unless you are landing on water then leave it up) put flaps in position.

5. Land: Continue gentle descent. As the ground approaches pull back yoke gently. Touch down on rear wheels first. Pull throttle all the way back to idle. Slowly release pressure on the yoke to allow nose to drop whilst steering with rudder pedals. Press brakes but try not to skid.

News
news

Lincoln MP Karl McCartney 'denied all knowledge' of the Twitter activity

News
The author PD James, who died on 27 November 2014
people

Detective novelist who wrote Death comes to Pemberley passed away peacefully at her home, aged 94

Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
filmDirector said film would 'never have been financed' with ethnic minority actors in key roles
Life and Style
View of champagne glasses at a beach bar set up along the Croisette during the 66th edition of the Cannes Film Festival in Cannes on May 17, 2013
food + drink(and for now, there's a clear winner)
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
News
Irradiated turkey and freeze dried mash potato will be on the menu this thanksgiving
video
News
Andy Murray with his girlfriend of nine years, Kim Sears who he has got engaged to
peopleWimbledon champion announces engagement to girlfriend Kim Sears
Arts and Entertainment
George Mpanga has been shortlisted for the Critics’ Choice prize
music
Arts and Entertainment
Roisin, James and Sanjay in the boardroom
tvReview: This week's failing project manager had to go
News
Ed Miliband visiting the Holocaust museum in Jerusalem. The Labour leader has spoken more openly of his heritage recently
newsAttacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But are the barbs more sinister?
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £45000 per annum + uncapped: SThree: Key featuresA highly motivated ...

Recruitment Genius: B2B Telemarketing Consultant

£18000 - £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A highly respected Telemarketin...

Recruitment Genius: Team of Female Support Workers Required - Competitive Pay

£8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: You will need to be able to follow instructio...

Recruitment Genius: Car Sales Executive - OTE £40,000

£10000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to expansion the Largest In...

Day In a Page

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game
There's a Good Girl exhibition: How female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising

In pictures: There's a Good Girl exhibition

The new exhibition reveals how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover - from advent calendars to doll's houses

UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover

It worked with cupcakes, doughnuts and macarons so no wonder someone decided to revamp the humble biscuit
Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

It's no surprise that the building game born in Sweden in 2009 and now played by millions, has imitators keen to construct their own mega money-spinner
The King's School is way ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology

Staying connected: The King's School

The school in Cambridgeshire is ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology. Richard Garner discovers how teachers and pupils stay connected
Christmas 2014: 23 best women's perfumes

Festively fragrant: the best women's perfumes

Give a loved one a luxe fragrance this year or treat yourself to a sensual pick-me-up
Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition

Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund

The Ox celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition
Billy Joe Saunders vs Chris Eubank Jnr: When two worlds collide

When two worlds collide

Traveller Billy Joe Saunders did not have a pampered public-school upbringing - unlike Saturday’s opponent Chris Eubank Jnr
Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?