WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — A passenger with no flying experience radioed an urgent plea for help when the pilot of a small plane suddenly fell ill off Florida’s Atlantic coast, and was able to land the plane safely with the help of air traffic controllers.
“I’ve got a serious situation here,” the man said Tuesday afternoon, according to audio on LiveATC.net, a website that broadcasts and archives air traffic controller communications. “My pilot has gone incoherent. I have no idea how to fly the airplane.”
Fort Pierce’s air traffic controller responded by asking if he could locate the Cessna 208 single-engine engine.
“I have no idea. I can see the coast of Florida in front of me, and I have no idea,” the passenger said.
Flight Aware reports that the aircraft had left Marsh Harbour International Airport, Bahamas on Tuesday. Federal Aviation Administration released that the plane was being occupied by the pilot, and two other passengers. Officials haven’t identified any of them.
As the plane flew over Florida, controller Christopher Flores, speaking very calmly, told the passenger to “maintain wings level and try to follow the coast, either north or southbound.” Twin controls enable a Cessna 208 to be steered from the passenger seat.
Controllers had to wait for minutes until they could find the plane. It was now heading north from Boca Raton.
Then the man’s voice seemed to fade, so the controller in Fort Pierce asked for the passenger’s cellphone number to enable controllers at Palm Beach International Airport to communicate with him more clearly.
Robert Morgan is a veteran air traffic controller and took control of the situation. He talked the passenger into a safe landing. According to the FAA, Morgan is an FAA-certified flight instructor who has experience flying Cessna planes.
“Kudos to the new pilot,” one controller told him after the plane smoothly wheeled down the tarmac.
Officials said that rescue workers helped the pilot. Both passengers were uninjured. Officials could not immediately determine what happened to the pilot.
Morgan claimed in the FAA’s video, that he just did his job and at a better level than he imagined.
“We’ve never had anything like that,” Morgan said. “I felt like I was in a movie.”
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