The scene was straight from a Hollywood script, as a passenger with no flying experience got behind the controls of a small plane and landed it at an airport in West Palm Beach after the pilot went incoherent after suffering a medical emergency during the flight, officials said.
Around 12:30 p.m. on May 10, authorities said the single-engine Cessna 208 with two people on board landed safely at the Palm Beach International Airport. Behind the success of the plane landing safely was an air traffic controller guiding the passenger to fly the plane, NBC 6 South Florida reported.
According to audio from a call made to air traffic control at Fort Pierce Tower, the passenger, who was later identified as Darren Harrison of Lakeland, talked to the air traffic controller and said, “I’ve got a serious situation here. My pilot has gone incoherent. I have no idea how to fly the airplane,” NBC 6 South Florida stated.
Besides the fact that Harrison had no clue how to fly an airplane, the controller, Robert Morgan, stepped up big time. He asked Harrison what the plane’s position was and he said, “I have no idea. I see the coast of Florida in front of me and I have no idea.”
It was enough for Morgan to work with. He was also a flying instructor, so he was able to provide Harrison with instructions on helming the cockpit controls. He told Harrison to “hold the wings level” and “push forward on the controls and descend at a very slow rate,” NBC 6 South Florida reported.
With the help of Morgan, the plane safely touched down, which had others in the control room shocked. In the audio, you can hear another air traffic controller telling other pilots what just happened. An American Airlines pilot said, “Did you say the passengers landed the airplane? Oh, my God. Great job.”
Morgan was proud of the passenger, as he can be heard saying, “Kudos to that new pilot.” While it was a happy ending, the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office did state one person was taken to the hospital, but they were not releasing any details on their condition or identity.
Meanwhile, the case is still open and the FAA is investigating the incident.