(CMR) A passenger who had no previous flying experience was forced to land a single-engine Cessna 208 at Palm Beach International in Florida after the pilot experienced a medical emergency on Tuesday.
“My pilot has gone incoherent. I have no idea how to fly the airplane,” the passenger told air traffic controllers, according to audio from LiveATC.
The flight had reportedly departed from Marsh Harbour, Bahamas, about an hour and a half before the emergency landing.
When asked his position, the passenger was unable to say. He, however, said he could see the coast of Florida.
In an interview with CNN, Air Traffic Controller Robert Morgan, a certified flight instructor, recalled the terrifying ordeal which had a happy ending.
Morgan was on a break when the call came in from the plane headed out from the Bahamas.
“I rush over there, and I walk in and the room is really busy … and they're like, ‘Hey, this pilot's incapacitated. The passengers are flying the plane. They have no flying experience,” Morgan told CNN's “New Day” Wednesday.
“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 air traffic controller can be heard telling the fledgling pilot in LiveATC audio.
“Try to follow the coast either north or southbound. We're trying to locate you.”
According to CNN Travel, Morgan made the key decision to guide the aircraft to the area's biggest airport, helping the passenger-turned-pilot position his aircraft 8 miles out from Palm Beach International, “just so he could just have a really big target to aim at.”
Together they were able to get the plane to land safely, a 10 out of 10 landing rating, according to Morgan.
“I felt like I was going to cry then, because I had so much adrenaline built up. I was really happy that it worked out and that nobody got hurt,” Morgan said.
Pilots who witnessed the landing were surprised to learn that a passenger with no prior experience was at the controls.
“Did you say the passengers landed the airplane?” an American Airlines pilot asked.
“Oh, my God. Great job,” he said.
After the Cessna's landing, Morgan met his new student, who gave him a big hug and said thank you.
“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.”
“In my eyes, he was the hero,” Morgan said. “I was just doing my job.
The condition of the original Cessna pilot was not immediately known, the Federal Aviation Administration said in a statement.