TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — With the help of air traffic controllers, a passenger with no flying experience made a successful landing at Florida’s Palm Beach International Airport after the pilot suffered an apparent medical emergency, according to airport officials and the Federal Aviation Administration.
The plane, a Cessna Caravan, took off from Leonard M. Thompson International Airport in the Bahamas on Tuesday, and was over the Florida coastline when the pilot suffered a medical issue and became incapacitated. The unidentified passenger took over the controls and radioed for help.
“I’ve got a serious situation here. My pilot has gone incoherent. I have no idea how to fly the airplane,” the unnamed passenger said, as heard in audio captured by LiveATC.com.
“Roger. What’s your position?” Air Traffic Control responded.
“I have no idea,” the passenger said. “I can see the coast of Florida in front of me. And I have no idea.”
The air traffic controllers told the man to keep the wings level and continue up the coast until they were able to find his plane above Boca Raton. They also asked for the passenger’s cell phone number, to better communicate while he was at the controls.
Robert Morgan, one of the air traffic controllers, was outside the tower reading a book when he was called in to assist.
“There’s a passenger flying a plane that’s not a pilot and the pilot is incapacitated so they said you need to help them try and land the plane,” Morgan told WPBF.
Although Morgan had never flown a Cessna Caravan, he was able to guide the man to land safely by looking at a picture of the cockpit.
The aircraft touched down at approximately 12:30 p.m., the FAA confirmed.
“You just witnessed a couple passengers land that plane,” one of the controllers said over the radio.
“Passengers landed the plane?” another asked.
“That’s correct,” the controller replied. “No flying experience.”
“Oh, my gosh. Great job.”
Upon landing, the pilot was transported to a local hospital by Palm Beach County Fire Rescue. Morgan said he met the passenger on the tarmac.
“It felt really good to help somebody and he told me that he couldn’t wait to get home and hug his pregnant wife,” Morgan told WPBF.
Officials at Palm Beach International Airport also commended the pilot and the controllers.
“We are incredibly proud of the heroism shown by all parties involved in yesterday’s incident ending at PBI,” said Lacy Larson, a spokesperson for the airport, in a statement shared with Nexstar. “We are grateful for the outcome and wish everyone the best.”