Guided by air traffic control, an unnamed passenger landed a plane safely after his pilot became incapacitated.
On Tuesday afternoon air traffic control received a message from the man who explained his predicament in audio captured by LiveATC and obtained by CNN.
‘I’ve got a serious situation here,’ the man said. ‘My pilot has gone incoherent and I have no idea how to fly the airplane.’
The plane in question was a Cessna 208 – a caravan with a length of 11.5m and a 15.9m wingspan, and capable of seating up to 14 people, although in this case only two people were aboard.
‘Roger. What’s your position?’ came the reply from an air traffic controller.
‘I have no idea. I can see the coast of Florida in front of me. And I have no idea’, responded the passenger.
The controller requested that the passenger follow the coastline either north or southbound and informed him that the aviation authorities were trying to locate the plane.
Once the plane was located an air traffic controller guided the passenger towards Palm Beach International Airport and provided instructions on how to land it safely.
‘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’, was one set of instructions relayed to the passenger turned pilot.
The plane landed safely after which additional audio could be heard of a different air traffic controller informing other pilots of what had just occurred.
‘You just witnessed a couple of passengers land that plane.’
“Did you say the passengers landed the airplane? Oh my God. Great job” said one American Airlines pilot.
Modest praise according to aviation expert John Nance who spoke to WPBF-TV.
‘This is the first time I’ve ever heard of one of these [Cessna 208] being landed by somebody that has no aeronautical experience.’
The person who landed the plane ‘listened very carefully and obviously followed instructions with great calm’ he added.
The Federal Aviation Administration said in a statement that the pilot experienced a ‘possible medical issue’ and it will be investigating the incident.