In what will come across as a really startling development, a passenger with no flying experience successfully landed a small plane in Florida Tuesday afternoon after his pilot suffered a medical emergency.
The incredible aviation accomplishment happened at Palm Beach International Airport with the help of air traffic controllers, according to WPBF-TV.
“I’ve got a serious situation here,” the Cessna Caravan passenger was reportedly heard telling air traffic control about 70 miles north of his final destination. “My pilot has gone incoherent. I have no idea how to fly the airplane.”
“Roger. What’s your position?” a dispatcher responded, according to the outlet.
“I have no idea,” the passenger reportedly said. “I can see the coast of Florida in front of me. And I have no idea.”
“Maintain wings level and just try to follow the coast, either north or southbound. We’re trying to locate you.”
Controllers helped the plane descend and finally located it about 25 miles north of Palm Beach in Boca Raton. From there, air traffic control coached the man down to the ground in what was considered a safe and steady landing, the station reported.
“You just witnessed a couple passengers land that plane,” a controller reportedly said over the radio when the nail-biting saga came to an end.
“Did you say the passengers landed the plane?” another person was heard asking.
“That’s correct,” the controlled replied.
“Oh, my gosh. Great job,” said the other person.
One aviation expert told the station that the dispatcher’s relatively modest praise for the virgin pilot was a huge understatement.
“This is the first time I’ve ever heard of one of these [Cessna Caravans] being landed by somebody that has no aeronautical experience,” said Aviation expert John Nance.
The 38-foot-long airplane reaches speeds of 215 miles per hour, seats up to 14 people and boasts a 52 foot wingspan, according to Cessna.
“The person on the airplane who had no aeronautical experience listened very carefully and obviously followed instructions with great calm,” Nance reportedly said. “That’s what made the difference.”
Neither the name of the heroic passenger nor the condition of the sick pilot was released.
The Federal Aviation Administration reportedly said it believed he suffered a medical emergency, as it continued to investigate.