A teenager was forced to take over the controls of a plane for more than half an hour on Saturday afternoon when the pilot passed out during a flight over rural Australia.
Troy Jenkins, 19, had to fly the plane around in circles for 45 minutes at a small airport in Forbes, New South Wales, because he didn’t know how to land the single-engine Cessna 150 on his own.
The pilot, 61-year-old family friend Derek Neville, lost consciousness just 10 minutes into the recreational flight. Mr Jenkins said he had taken over the controls in the past while flying with Mr Neville, but that he had only landed the plane once before – and that was under the older man’s direct supervision.
“Keeping it up wasn't a problem, it was the landing part I wasn't sure of,” Mr Jenkins told The Associated Press. “I was pretty scared.”
“I thought I had to save myself and him. It was quite an experience,” he said.
The teenager was able to keep the plane at a steady altitude of 2,000 feet (610 metres), before Mr Neville finally came to.
“He sort of poked me in the right direction and we both brought it down,” Mr Jenkins said. They landed safely.
The 19-year-old also explained how grateful he was to pilot Paul Reynolds, who responded to his SOS radio calls and came to the rescue. Mr Reynolds flew his own plane alongside the Cessna and provided instructions over the radio.
“I just heard on the radio someone calling: 'Help, help,'” Mr Reynolds told the Nine Network TV station.
“What I got him to do was essentially just maintain that altitude and fly around the airfield,” he added.
After the landing, Mr Neville was flown to Orange Base Hospital, where he was being treated on Sunday.
His wife Merle Neville said he had undergone heart and brain scans, but doctors had yet to diagnose the problem.
“We've had a good outcome,” she said, referring to the successful landing.
Police Detective Sergeant Steve Howard said the air emergency could have resulted in tragedy if the pilot had not regained consciousness when he did.
“I do believe the passenger had some prior experience in the plane and had landed the plane with some assistance in the past, but we were just very fortunate that the pilot did come to,” Sgt Howard told ABC News.
Air safety investigators plan to interview both the pilot and passenger on Tuesday, Australian Transport Safety Bureau spokesman Stuart Godley said.
Additional reporting by AP