Passenger with no flying experience lands plane at Florida airport after pilot becomes incapacitated

‘This is the first time I’ve ever heard of one of these being landed by somebody that has no aeronautical experience,’ aviation expert says

Gino Spocchia
Washington, DC
,Gustaf Kilander
Thursday 12 May 2022 09:25
Audio: Passenger with no flight experience lands plane in West Palm Beach
Leer en Español

A passenger on a private plane managed to land the aircraft at a Florida airport, despite having no flying experience, after the pilot became incapacitated onboard.

The dramatic situation took place on Tuesday when the passenger was captured on audio telling air traffic control that he had “no idea” how to fly the plane.

“I’ve got a serious situation here,” the unidentified passenger said in the audio, according to reports. “My pilot has gone incoherent, and I have no idea how to fly the airplane.”

“Roger. What’s your position?” air traffic control replied.

“Try to hold the wings level and see if you can start descending for me. Push forward on the controls and descend at a very slow rate,” control added. “Try to follow the coast, either north or southbound. We’re trying to locate you.”

The plane, which was carrying two people in addition to the pilot, had been flying at an altitude of 9,100ft near southern Florida and was guided by air traffic controllers in Fort Pierce to follow the coastline to eventually land at Palm Beach International airport.

The small aircraft landed at Palm Beach on Tuesday

After the passenger contacted air traffic control, the private plane was located on radar within four minutes.

While the controllers located the plane, which according to reports was a Cessna Caravan, the passenger-turned-pilot asked them how to turn on the plane’s navigation screen.

Air traffic controller Robert Morgan poses for a picture with the passenger that he helped land a Cessna Caravan

“Have you guys located me yet?” he asked. “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?”

The first-time pilot eventually flew the plane into Palm Beach International Airport and landed it without issue – much to the surprise of other aircraft and those on the ground.

“You just witnessed a couple passengers land that plane,” the air traffic controller could be heard telling an American Airlines pilot getting ready to fly to Charlotte, North Carolina.

“Did you say the passengers landed the plane?” the pilot asked. “Oh, my God. Great job.”

A video obtained showed the plane landing and emergency responders arriving to help the pilot. No further details were released about those on board.

“This is the first time I’ve ever heard of one of these being landed by somebody that has no aeronautical experience,” aviation expert John Nance said on Tuesday.

“The person on the airplane who had no aeronautical experience listened very carefully and obviously followed instructions with great calm,” he said. “That’s what made the difference.”

The Federal Aviation Administration said in a statement that the pilot suffered a “possible medical issue”. The agency is investigating the incident.

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