A man with no piloting experience successfully landed a single-engine Cessna 208 at Palm Beach International Airport Tuesday afternoon after the pilot experienced a medical issue.
“I’ve got a serious situation here," the passenger told Fort Pierce air traffic control. "My pilot has gone incoherent. I have no idea how to fly the airplane.” He was the only other person aboard.
When asked about his position, the passenger responded, “I have no idea. I see the coast of Florida in front of me and I have no idea.”
Air traffic controller Robert Morgan was reading a book on his break at the Palm Beach airport when alerted to the situation. Morgan, with two decades of tower experience and 1,200 hours as a flight instructor, jumped into action. Having never flown a Cessna 208, Morgan pulled up an image of the cockpit to better understand what the man was dealing with.
Later, Morgan told reporters, “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.”
The passenger was told to begin a slow descent while holding the wings level.
After being spotted on radar about 20 miles east of Boca Raton, Morgan helped the passenger maneuver the plane to a near-perfect landing.
“You just witnessed a couple of passengers land that plane,” an air traffic controller said over the radio to an American Airlines pilot awaiting take-off. “They did a great job.”
“Passengers landed the airplane?” the pilot asked. “Oh my gosh, great job.”
Morgan and the passenger shared an embrace after the landing. The passenger said he was heading home to be with his pregnant wife.
The FAA did not identify the pilot or passenger, nor was an update on the pilot’s condition available.