A passenger who had zero flying experience landed a small plane in Florida on Tuesday after the pilot became incapacitated due to a medical emergency.
According to WPBF, audio of the incident reveals that one of two passengers onboard a single-engine Cessna 208 contacted air traffic control at Fort Pierce for help when his pilot became “incoherent.”
“I’ve got a serious situation here,” the passenger says. “My pilot has gone incoherent, and I have no idea how to fly the airplane.”
“Roger. What’s your position?” air traffic controller Robert Morgan responds.
“I have no idea,” the passenger continues. “I can see the coast of Florida in front of me. And I have no idea.”
The air traffic controller then begins instructing the passenger on how to land the plane.
“Maintain wings level and just try to follow the coast, either north or southbound. We’re trying to locate you,” the controller says.
“Have you guys located me yet? I can’t even get my nav screen to turn on. It has all the information on it,” the passenger adds. “You guys have any ideas on that?”
Radar eventually located the plane off the coast of Boca Raton, allowing Morgan to walk the passenger through landing the aircraft at Palm Beach International Airport, according to additional audio obtained by CNN.
“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,” Morgan says.
After successfully landing the plane, another air traffic controller tells other pilots about the incident.
“You just witnessed a couple of passengers land that plane,” the operator tells an American Airlines pilot waiting to depart for Charlotte, North Carolina.
“Did you say the passengers landed the airplane?” the American Airlines pilot asked.
“That’s correct,” the controller responds.
“Oh, my God,” the American Airlines pilot says. “Great job.”
John Nance, an aviation expert, said the passenger’s calm demeanor during the frightening ordeal “made the difference.”
“This is the first time I’ve ever heard of one of these being landed by somebody that has no aeronautical experience,” Nance said, noting that while he’s heard of passengers landing planes before, he’s never seen a successful inexperienced landing in a plane as large as the Cessna Caravan.
“The person on the airplane who had no aeronautical experience listened very carefully and obviously followed instructions with great calm,” Nance said. “That’s what made the difference.”
The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating the incident. The pilot’s condition is unknown.