Darren Harrison, who was a passenger on the Cessna 208 plane flying from the Bahamas to Florida on Tuesday, reacted quickly when he overheard his pilot mention that he was feeling ill. He saw the pilot abruptly lean over the controls of the single-engine plane, which caused the aircraft to go into a dive.
In an extreme act of courageousness, Darren sprang into action. Harrison, who had never flown an aircraft before, vaulted over three rows of seats to enter the cockpit, pushed the pilot out of his seat, and frantically attempted to put on a set of headphones and establish contact with air traffic control as the aircraft was in the process of descending.
But, how did Harrison, who is an executive of an interior design company, manage to land the aircraft without any actual training or experience in flying? Not to mention that he was still in flip-flops after spending time fishing in the Bahamas! According to NBC, It turns out that Darren had a slight advantage thanks to having been around aviation and seen other pilots fly in the past.
Once in the cockpit, Harrison made contact with air traffic control he said: “I’ve got a serious situation here. My pilot has gone incoherent. I have no idea how to fly the airplane.” Robert Morgan was called to assist.
Mr. Morgan was a long-time flight instructor with over 20 years of expertise in air traffic control. Although he had never flown the precise type – a single-engine Cessna 208 – he was able to offer directions to the flyer by using a map of the aircraft’s cockpit.
“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,” Morgan explained. Morgan also said that luckily, “He was really calm. He said, ‘I don’t know how to fly. I don’t know how to stop this thing if I do get on the runway.'”
“The pilot was slumped over on the controls and then they pushed him back, they get him out of his seat, then they have to get on the controls and pull back the plane so that it would climb up out of the dive it was in,” Morgan was quoted on NBC’s “TODAY.”
LiveATC audio recorded their nerve-wracking conversation while Morgan directed Harrison on how to fly the airplane. “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 went on to say that Harrison did an excellent job at landing the aircraft, even scoring it a 10 out of 10. “I just said, ‘You look great, you’re a little fast, what I want you to do is grab the throttle. Just pull that back a little bit cause we need you be slowed down.”
According to a CNN report, once safe on ground, the two men embraced and Darren thanked Robert for the help. “It was an emotional moment. He said that he just wanted to get home to his pregnant wife,” Morgan said. “And that felt even better.”
The BBC has stated that the FAA is investigating the matter.
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