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Pilot goes unconscious mid flight so passenger with no flying experience forced to try & land plane
Darren and his friend were returning to Florida from a fishing trip in the Bahamas when the worst-case scenario happened.
Jaclyn Abergas
05.18.22

What would you do if the lone pilot on your plane suddenly lost consciousness mid-air?

“The pilot was slumped over on the controls and they pushed him back, they get him out of his seat and then they had to get on the controls and pull back the plane so that it would climb up out of the dive that it was in,” Robert Morgan, the air traffic controller at Palm Beach International Airport, said.

YouTube - NBC News
Source:
YouTube - NBC News

For Darren Harrison, one of two passengers in this nine-seater single-engine Cessna 208 aircraft, he didn’t have time to second-guess himself. He had to take over.

But there’s one problem. Harrison had no pilot experience whatsoever.

YouTube - Inside Edition
Source:
YouTube - Inside Edition

He’s a 39-year-old interior designer, business owner, and father-to-be. Flying a plane was not on his list of skills until this day.

But he still had the good sense to contact air traffic control in Fort Pierce, Florida to alert them of their situation.

“I’ve got a serious situation here, my pilot has gone incoherent,” Harrison said on the radio. “I have no idea how to fly the airplane.”

YouTube - NBC News
Source:
YouTube - NBC News

The controller tried to get Harrison to report his location but Harrison had no idea what to say or look for.

“I have no idea. I see the coast of Florida in front of me and I have no idea,” Harrison told the controller.

YouTube - NBC News
Source:
YouTube - NBC News

The controller reassured him and told him to try to hold the wings level.

“Maintain wings level and just try to follow the coast, either north or southbound. We’re trying to locate you,” the controller instructed Harrison.

The controller got in touch with the air traffic control at the Palm Beach International Airport, where Robert Morgan, an air traffic controller, and part-time flight instructor, answered the call.

YouTube - Inside Edition
Source:
YouTube - Inside Edition

Morgan and his team were the ones who found Harrison, about 20 miles east of Boca Raton, Florida.

He guided Harrison to keep the plane steady.

In fact, Harrison was doing a good job that, instead of directing him to the Boca Raton Airport, which was closer, Morgan guided him towards Palm Beach International Airport. There was more landing space and emergency supplies at the latter location, which made it an easy choice.

YouTube - NBC News
Source:
YouTube - NBC News

When the plane was near the airport, it suddenly disappeared from their monitors.

Morgan kept talking on the radio, looking for any sign that they were safe.

After around ten seconds, Harrison spoke through on the radio, said they were on the ground, and asked what they were going to do next.

“My heart just kind of sank and I was just kind of thinking, thank God! Thank god. I was just overwhelmed with excitement,” Harrison shared.

Harrison successfully landed the nine-seater single-engine Cessna 208 aircraft at the Palm Beach International Airport on May 10, 2022 at 12:30 pm.

YouTube - NBC News
Source:
YouTube - NBC News

When they landed, the emergency crew quickly came to help the pilot, whose conditions are still unknown as of May 12, 2022.

Harrison was just returning from the Bahamas from a fishing trip with his friend. He was only wearing a shirt, shorts, and flip-flops. He had no idea he would be landing a plane at the end of that trip.

Morgan said Harrison was his “best student ever.”

YouTube - NBC News
Source:
YouTube - NBC News

Watch the video below to learn what happened from start to finish.

Please SHARE this with your friends and family.

By Jaclyn Abergas
hi@sbly.com
Jaclyn Abergas is a contributor at SBLY Media.
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