Miracle in Florida: 'I Have No Idea How to Fly the Airplane'

Man with no piloting experience safely lands Cessna after pilot is incapacitated
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted May 11, 2022 6:53 AM CDT

A man got a crash course in flying an airplane this week, luckily minus the crashing. A passenger in a single-engine Cessna 208 was forced to land the plane at Palm Beach International Airport on Tuesday afternoon after the pilot had an apparent medical emergency on the way back from the Bahamas, and CNN has the heart-stopping audio from LiveATC.net during the moments when the newly annointed co-pilot informed air traffic control about what was happening. "I've got a serious situation here. My pilot has gone incoherent and I have no idea how to fly the airplane," the man tells the controller.

When asked by the controller what his position is, the man says, "I have no idea. I can see the coast of Florida in front of me." ATC instructed the man to do his best to keep the wing level steady and follow the coastline, telling him, "We're trying to locate you," per WPBF. Four minutes later, the nervous man can be heard saying, "Have you guys located me yet? I can't even get my nav screen to turn on." But ATC soon did locate him, off the coast of Boca Raton, and guided him to a safe landing (WPBF has video of the landing here). The air traffic controller who helped the man land had never flown that specific model of plane, so he used a pic of the cockpit he had on hand to help him in his efforts, reports WPLG.

The response from others on the ATC airwaves was one of astonishment. "You just witnessed a couple of passengers land that plane," ATC can be heard saying, per CNN. "Did you say the passengers landed the airplane?" a stunned voice replied. "That's correct," said ATC, to which the other voice responded, "Oh my god ... great job." A JetBlue pilot who landed his own aircraft right after the Cessna says he couldn't believe what had happened. "The level of difficulty that this person had to deal with in terms of having zero flight time to fly and land a single-engine turbine aircraft is absolutely incredible," he tells WPBF. (More airplane stories.)

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