"How do I turn this thing off?" In the US, a passenger landed a plane when the pilot became ill

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Robert Morgan and Darren Harrison

image copyrightRobert Morgan

photo caption,

Air traffic controller Robert Morgan (left) helped passenger Darren Harrison land the plane safely.

On the East Coast of the United States, with what he said had absolutely no idea how to fly a plane, a passenger himself – following the instructions of an air traffic controller – landed a light, single-engine aircraft after the pilot lost consciousness.

When the press found out about the unusual landing, none of the airport employees could remember the name of the hero. But on Thursday they did find him, he turned out to be a young American named Darren Harrison.

Dramatic events unfolded on Tuesday afternoon in the sky over the state of Florida. Darren was the only passenger on a small Cessna 280 aircraft. He was flying from the Bahamas west towards the United States when the pilot became ill and passed out.

A light single-engine aircraft flying at an altitude of about 3,000 meters suddenly plummeted to 2,000 meters in just 16 seconds.

The dispatchers, with whom Harrison got in touch, tried to help him. The dialogue between them and the passenger reflects the unfolding drama.

HARRISON: “I have a serious situation here. My pilot is sick. I have no idea how to fly a plane.”

DISPATCHER: “Understood. Where are you?”

HARRISON: “I have no idea. I can see the coast of Florida in front of me, but I have no idea where it is.”

CONTROLLER: “Try to keep the wings level and follow the coast either north or south. We’ll try to locate you.”

HARRISON (in a calm voice): “I can’t turn on the navigator screen, and all the information is there. Do you happen to know how to do this?”

Dispatchers soon managed to locate the aircraft.

How the plane landed

Dual control system “Cessna” allows you to control the aircraft from the passenger seat.

When Fort Pierce airfield controllers located the plane, they asked Darren for his mobile number, and later Palm Beach International Airport controllers kept in touch with him by mobile phone.

Air traffic controller with 20 years of experience and experienced instructor Robert Morgan, who was called from his colleagues’ lunch break, helped Darren Harrison to land the plane.

Morgan decided to send Harrison to Palm Beach, because it is the largest airstrip in the area.

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Plane landed at Palm Beach Airport

The dispatcher himself had no experience of flying on this particular aircraft – Cessna 208, but opened an image of its dashboard in his smartphone.

“I knew this plane was just like the others,” Morgan told local WPBF 25 News.

“I had to keep [Harrison] calm, direct him to the runway and explain how to release the gas so that he could descend and go to land,” the controller said.

Video footage shows the aircraft landing smoothly. “Before I realize everything, he says to me:” I landed. How do I turn this thing off?” Morgan recalls.

When the passenger, who did not want to become a pilot, got out of the plane, Morgan and Harrison embraced.

“He said he wanted to get home as soon as possible and hug his pregnant wife,” the dispatcher said. “I was so glad I could help,” he added.

The pilot of the plane was taken to the hospital. Local authorities have not yet reported his name and the state he is in.

On the audio recording of the conversations of air traffic controllers, one of them is heard talking about what happened to the pilot of the American Airlines plane, and he exclaims: “What are you, the passenger landed the plane himself? God. What a good fellow.”

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