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Passenger Lands Plane in Florida with Incapacitated Pilot

Yesterday afternoon, the air traffic controllers at Palm Beach International Airport in Florida received a disconcerting report from a small, privately owned airplane that entered their airspace.

“I’ve got a serious situation here,” a passenger told controllers over the radio. “My pilot has gone incoherent, and I have no idea how to fly the airplane.”

Apparently, this passenger had been aboard a single-engine Cessna 208 with their pilot, when the pilot suddenly experienced an undisclosed medical emergency, becoming unresponsive. Using the plane’s radio, they managed to call for help, but they didn’t know how to use any of the instruments in the cockpit. The air traffic controllers picked up the call and did their best to quickly advise the passenger on how to use the controls and guide the plane down to the airport.

“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,” the controllers explained to the passenger.
“Try to follow the coast either north or southbound. We’re trying to locate you.”

With the controllers’ guidance, the passenger was able to successfully land the plane on the runway at Palm Beach International. The passenger was confirmed to be no worse for wear, though the status of the pilot has not been divulged.

After the landing, a tower operator informed some of the other pilots on the runway what had happened. “You just witnessed a couple of passengers land that plane,” they told an American Airlines pilot.

“Did you say the passengers landed the airplane?” the pilot asked. “Oh, my God. Great job.”


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