Air traffic controller Robert Morgan, left, helped Darren Harrison, right, land the plane after the pilot became incoherent.
A passenger without any flying experience safely landed a private plane on Tuesday at a Florida airport after the pilot had a medical issue, according to the US Federal Aviation Administration.
The plane, a single-engine Cessna 208, landed around 12:30 p.m. at Palm Beach International Airport, the F.A.A. said. The aircraft had departed from Marsh Harbour in the Bahamas an hour and a half earlier, according to Flight Aware, a flight tracking website, a report in the New York Times stated.
Only three people were on board, the pilot and two passengers, the F.A.A. said. Their names were not released.
At noon, about an hour into the flight from the Bahamas , the pilot said he wasn’t feeling well and slumped against the controls, according to an F.A.A. blog post. The plane went into a nosedive and a sharp turn, forcing one of the passengers to take over during the flight and stabilize the plane.
“I’ve got a serious situation here,” the passenger said to a controller at a tower in Fort Pierce, Fla., according to audio archived on LiveATC.net. “My pilot has gone incoherent, and I have no idea how to fly the airplane.”
The passenger also said that he did not know where the plane was.
“I see the coast of Florida in front of me, and I have no idea,” said the passenger, who was also struggling to turn on the navigation system.
During a 10-minute exchange, the air traffic controller, Christopher Flores, guided the passenger, then about 20 miles east of Boca Raton, telling him to hold the wings level, follow the coastline and attempt to slowly descend. Air traffic control at Palm Beach International Airport took over after that .
Robert Morgan, an experienced air-traffic controller and flight instructor, said in an interview released by the F.A.A. that he had never flown a Cessna 208 aircraft before. A co-worker printed out images of the plane’s cockpit for him to consult. Mr. Morgan instructed the passenger on how to land and stop the plane.
Morgan said, “I knew the plane was flying like any other plane, I just knew I had to keep him calm, point him to the runway and tell him how to reduce the power so he could descend to land,” Mr. Morgan said.
The passenger achieved an awesome feat as becoming a private pilot with a single-engine plane requires at least 40 hours of flight time, including at least 10 hours of solo flying and multiple takeoffs and landings.
After the emergency landing, one patient was transported to an area hospital. passengers were not injured, the F.A.A. said.