Loading...

Passenger lands plane in Florida: how did aircraft reach Palm Beach, who landed it and what happened to pilot?

The passenger, identified as Darren Harrison, told air traffic controllers that he had ‘no idea how’ to fly the plane

<p>Passenger Darren Harrison was able to safely land the plane with the help of air traffic controller Robert Morgan (Photo: Robert Morgan/CBS)</p>

Passenger Darren Harrison was able to safely land the plane with the help of air traffic controller Robert Morgan (Photo: Robert Morgan/CBS)

A passenger without any flying experience managed to safely land a plane at Florida airport after his pilot suffered from what is believed to have been a medical emergency.

The passenger, who was previously unidentified, has been named as Darren Harrison.

Sign up to our NationalWorld Today newsletter

This is what you need to know.

What happened?

At around noon EDT (which is roughly 5pm in the UK), Tuesday 10 May, the pilot of a Cessna 208 flying from the Bahamas to Florida told the two passengers in the plane he wasn’t feeling well.

Then the pilot passed out, causing the plane to go into a nosedive.

Both the passengers had no flying experience, but that didn’t stop Harrison from jumping to action.

He managed to pull the aircraft out of its nosedive and called Fort Pierce Tower at Treasure Coast International Airport. He relayed the incident to the air traffic controllers and added that he had zero flying experience.

Controller Christopher “Chip” Flores at Fort Pierce Tower received the call and with the assistance of operational supervisor Justin Boyle, the two managed to instruct Harrison how to take control of the plane.

They calmly told Harrison to fly straight ahead and start a gradual descent - this allowed time for air traffic control to locate the aircraft.

Flores told Harrison to change his radio frequency to Palm beach air traffic control, however he did not know how to change frequencies - instead, basic emergency radios were used to guide the plane to safety.

Robert Morgan, a certified flight instructor with experience piloting a Cessna aircraft, was called in to help guide Harrison to Palm Beach Airport.

Members of the air traffic control team at Palm Beach Tower stepped in to provide support, stopping departures at the airport and contacting nearby control facilities to put aircrafts into holding patterns to clear space for the Cessna 208’s landing.

Morgan was able to walk Harrison through the process of making turns, selecting flap settings for the plane and how to land. When Harrison had the Palm Beach runway in sight, it was time to make the final approach.

When the aircraft was over the runway, Morgan explained how to break and adjust levers as Harrison didn’t know how to stop the plane.

The Cessna 208 successfully landed at 4:07pm local time, with first responders present to assist the original pilot of the plane. NeitherHarrison or his fellow passenger had any injuries.

What was said in the audio recording?

LiveATC.net, a site which streams live air traffic audio, captured the exchange between Harrison and the air traffic controllers.

Harrison said: “I’ve got a serious situation here. My pilot has gone incoherent and I have no idea how to fly the airplane.”

When asked about the pilot, he repeated: “He is incoherent. He is out.”

After the air traffic controller asked about the position of the plane, Harrison said: “I have no idea. I see the coast of Florida in front of me and I have no idea.”

The controller can be heard instructing Harrison to “try to follow the coast either north or southbound” whilst they attempted to locate the plan.

Air traffic controller Robert Morgan (left) and Darren Harrison (right) (Photo: Robert Morgan)

After around four minutes Harrison asked: “Have you guys located me? I can’t even get my nav screen to turn on. It has all the information on it. You guys have any ideas on that?”

Harrison can be heard being guided to land the plane, with the air traffic controller saying: “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.”

Other audio by LiveATC.net caught air traffic controllers expressing their amazement after the plane landed.

A tower operator can be heard telling an American Airlines pilot: “You just witnessed a couple of passengers land that plane.”

The American Airlines pilot replied: “Did you say the passengers landed the airplane? Oh my god. Great job.”

What has been said about the incident?

Talking to CNN, Morgan, the flight instructor, said he had been on a break when he was called in to help.

He said: “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”.

“I said, “Oh boy”.”

Neither Darren Harrison or his fellow passenger sustained any injuries (Photo: CBS)

Talking to WPBF-TV, Morgan said: “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.

“Before I knew it, he said, “I’m on the ground. How do I turn this thing off?””

Morgan explained that Harrison was “really calm” and that after the plane landed, he felt like he was “going to cry”.

He said: “I had so much adrenaline built up. I was really happy that it worked out and that nobody got hurt.”

Who is the passenger?

The passenger has been identified as Darren Harrison.

After the plane landed, Morgan andHarrison exchanged a hug.

Morgan said: “It was an emotional moment. He said that he just wanted to get home to his pregnant wife, and that felt even better.”

He added: “In my eyes, he was the hero. I was just doing my job.”