Passenger Lands Plane After Pilot Collapses, Flight Instructor Says He Did a "Remarkable Job"

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Cessna 172
Cessna 172 iStock

Frequent fliers know what to do in the event of most emergencies (secure your oxygen mask before assisting others, your seat cushion will double as a flotation device, etc.), but none of that could have prepared this passenger.

Two people, a pilot and an unnamed passenger, were flying aboard a four-seater Cessna 172 plane that had taken off from a small airfield near Humberside Airport in England yesterday, when the pilot suddenly fell ill and collapsed at the controls.

A distress call was sent out and two flight instructors were called to help the passenger, who NBC News reports may have had some previous flying experience, land the airplane.

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"With it being dark, I didn't want the lad to start looking around the cockpit and lose control of the airplane," Roy Murray, one of the flight instructors, explained to CNN. "So unfortunately, he [did] a blind landing, without any lights in the cockpit. All he had was the glare of the lights of the runway." 

With Murray and the other flight instructor guiding him, the passenger made four passes at the runway: First, to familiarize himself with the landing area, two more passes for safety and then, on the fourth go round, he landed the plane.

The BBC reports there were cheers in the control tower when the plane ("with a bump, a bump, a bump," a "few sparks" and "some crashing") finally came to a halt on the ground, safely.

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Roy Murray Press Association via AP Images

Unfortunately, the pilot died later that evening. The passenger, though, was unharmed. Paul Litten, Humberside Airport's commercial director, held a press conference where he expressed his condolences for the pilot's family but admitted, "The tragedy that could have unfolded was certainly mitigated." 

"He made quite a good landing, actually," Murray said. "I wouldn't be frightened to fly with him."

He continued, "It's a fantastic feeling, knowing I have achieved something and probably saved somebody's life. I think without any sort of talk down, he would have just gone into the ground and that would have been the end of it."

For your records, WikiHow does have an article titled "How to Land an Airplane in an Emergency."

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