PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. - When the pilot of a small plane experienced a medical emergency midflight over Florida on May 10, a passenger who told air-traffic control he had "no idea" how to fly a plane managed to land it safely at Palm Beach International Airport.
This visualization from FlightAware, a flight-tracking website, depicts the path of the Cessna 208 from Marsh Harbor Airport in the Bahamas to Palm Beach in Florida.
In air-traffic-control audio obtained by WPBF, the Florida news outlet that first reported the incident, the passenger told controllers in Fort Pierce: "I’ve got a serious situation here. My pilot has gone incoherent. I have no idea how to fly the airplane."
"Roger. What’s your position?" replied Fort Pierce Air Traffic Control.
"I have no idea. I can see the coast of Florida in front of me. And I have no idea," the passenger said.
Fort Pierce Air Traffic Control told the passenger to "maintain wings level" and to follow the coastline either north or south as they tried to locate the plane.
Radar then picked up the plane’s location near Boca Raton, at which point air-traffic controllers at Palm Beach International Airport took over and talked the passenger through the steps needed to land the plane on a runway at Palm Beach, WPBF reported.
The passenger was guided by Robert Morgan, an experienced air-traffic controller and a flight instructor who told WPBF: "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."
"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 said.
In a statement to Storyful, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said "a single-engine Cessna 208 landed safely at Palm Beach International Airport around 12:30 pm local time Tuesday following a possible pilot medical issue." Two people were on board, the FAA said.
According to WPTV, the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office said one person on the plane was taken to a hospital.