Passenger Lands Plane After Pilot Gets Sick

Passenger Lands Plane After Pilot Gets Sick
Photo: David McNew, Getty Images

In a scene that’s reminiscent of the 1980 cult comedy Aeroplane!, a flight pulling into West Palm Beach this week managed to avoid certain calamity when a passenger with no flying experience took over the controls from the pilot, who was suffering a “medical emergency.”

A local Palm Beach news affiliate, WPBF, was first to report the news, claiming that air traffic controllers were able to help the passenger safely get the aircraft landed (again, not unlike a certain movie).

“I’ve got a serious situation here,” the passenger told controllers, according to audio logs retrieved from a radio tower in Fort Pierce, roughly 113 km of the aircrafts’ final destination. “My pilot has gone incoherent. I have no idea how to fly the aeroplane.”

When the air traffic controller asked for the passenger’s position, he responded that he “[has] no idea.”

Eventually, the logs detail that the air traffic controllers managed to locate the craft (it was about 32 km east of Boca Raton, itself not too far from Palm Beach), and guided the passenger/pilot/hero into a safe descent along the Florida coast. Considering how the tower’s recordings show the man fumbling with the craft’s basic navigation screen, pilots later told the news affiliate that the feat was “absolutely incredible.”

What’s also incredible is that the Palm Beach air traffic controller responsible for guiding the craft safely to land, Robert Morgan of Jupiter, Florida, later told the outlet that he wasn’t even familiar with the craft he was guiding. Instead, he reportedly used a picture of the cockpit from the craft in question — a Cessna Grand Caravan — to piece together instructions for the terrified passenger inside. “Before I knew it, he said, ‘I’m on the ground, how do I turn this thing off?’,” Morgan told the outlet.

While neither the passenger’s name or the pilots’ condition was released publicly, the The Federal Aviation Administration is “investigating,” according to the outlet. But for the time being, maybe we can just assume they were paying homage to the classic comedy flick by eating some bad fish and turning into a “quivering, wasted piece of jelly” in the aftermath.