Yesterday afternoon (May 10), a passenger with absolutely zero flying experience had to land a single-engine Cessna 208 after the pilot lost consciousness.
Air traffic controller Robert Morgan was on his break when an urgent call came in over his audio system from a man saying that his pilot had “gone incoherent” and it was a “serious situation.”
Reports say that while the passenger behind the wheel had never flown an aircraft, he had been around aviation and witnessed other pilots fly.
Morgan recalls that the man was “really calm” given the extreme situation. “He said, ‘I don’t know how to fly. I don’t know how to stop this thing if I do get on the runway,’” Morgan revealed.
While the air traffic controller had never flown that particular model either, he found a picture of the instrument panel’s layout and began giving his new student a step-by-step lesson.
LiveATC audio recorded their conversation. Morgan is heard saying, “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.”
“Try to follow the coast either north or southbound. We’re trying to locate you,” Morgan continued. The flight was coming from the Bahamas.
Figuring it would help the situation if the new pilot had more space to land, Morgan guided his new student to the nearest large airport. He guided the man to fly eight miles out from Palm Beach International ”just so he could just have a really big target to aim at.”
After the successful landing, Morgan revealed he felt overjoyed. “I felt like I was going to cry then, because I had so much adrenaline built up.” He continued, “I was really happy that it worked out and that nobody got hurt.”
News outlets covered the story and shared audio of stunned pilots listening in from LiveATC audio on the entire situation.
“Did you say the passengers landed the airplane?” one American Airlines pilot asked. “Oh, my God. Great job,” he added.
The Federal Aviation Administration released a statement after the incident saying that the original pilot’s condition was unknown at the time.
After the new pilot landed, he met Morgan who was more than happy to embrace him.
“It was an emotional moment. He said that he just wanted to get home to his pregnant wife,” Morgan said. “And that felt even better.”