Pilot dies, inexperienced passenger takes control and lands aircraft

A passenger with absolutely no previous flying experience safely lands an aircraft after the pilot falls unconscious and collapses on the controls. This news story from the English skies reminds us of Airport ’77 the US forerunner of the disaster movie genre or its parody Airplane!: in both movies a Vietnam war veteran pilot takes the controls and wins back his ex-wife air hostess on the same flight.

In reality the heroic passenger, whose identity has not been revealed by the authorities, was on his first flight and was the only passenger on the two-seater which took off from the British airport of Sandtoft. After a brief flight, the pilot suffered a heart attack and raised the alarm via radio before losing consciousness. The passenger managed to stay relatively calm and followed the instructions given over the radio by Roy Murray, a very experienced flying instructor, to help the unfortunate novice carry out landing manoeuvres.

The landing at Humberside airport, despite being fairly rough, was successful at the first attempt: after a few bounces the Piper came to a halt on the runway. Unfortunately, it was too late for the pilot: the heart attack had proved fatal. However, the passenger/pilot, who was rescued by the airport service teams, was unharmed.



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