'Hand of God', says passenger who landed plane without flying knowledge: WATCH
The pilot went incoherent while operating the plane, although the situation was handled when the passenger took control of the light aircraft adhering to the air traffic controller's guidance.
- The incident took place near Florida's Atlantic coast
- The passenger and pilot were the only people on the plane
- Authorities have not revealed the pilot's identity
We have seen it multiple times in the movies, sometime in a funny portrayal, sometimes serious, but an untrained passenger landing a plane safely without a pilot's intervention is something we only see in real life once in a lifetime. In one such incident, a Florida man with no flying experience landed a small plane after the pilot collapsed at the controls. Inn a recent interview given to NBC's "Today" show, Darren Harrison, the passenger mentioned that "the hand of God" was with him when he landed the plane to his and pilot's safety.
The passenger says that he was relaxing with his feet up in the back of the single-engine Cessna after a fishing trip in the Bahamas when the pilot told him and another passenger: "Guys, I gotta tell you I don't feel good." The 39-year-old flooring salesman Darren says he kept his cool as pilot said "I've got a headache and I'm fuzzy and I just don't feel right."
Darren further adds that I said, "What do we need to do" and at that point he didn't respond at all. Harrison climbed into the cockpit and saw that the plane was diving, and fast. "All I saw when I came up to the front was water out the right window and I knew it was coming quick. At that point I knew if I didn't react, that we would die."
This is brand new video (courtesy of Jeff Chandler) of a passenger landing a plane today at PBIA.
His pilot had passed out, and the passenger with zero flight experience was forced to land the plane.
Team coverage of this amazing landing is on @WPBF25News at 11. pic.twitter.com/jFLIlTp6Zs — Ari Hait (@wpbf_ari) May 11, 2022
Harrison said he reached over the unconscious pilot and grabbed the controls, slowly pulling back the stick to level the plane. It was a common-sense move, he said. "I knew if I went up and yanked that, the airplane would stall," he said. "And I also knew that at the rate we were going, we were going way too fast, and it would probably rip the wings off of the airplane."
That, he said, was "the scariest part of the whole story." With help from the other passenger "a friend of the pilot, he said" they moved him out of the pilot's seat. Harrison jumped in and put on the headset, only to realize that the wires were frayed and the plug was gone. So he got the headset from the other passenger.
He reached an air traffic controller in Florida. Asked if he knew the plane's position, Harrison said the GPS was out so he had no idea. According to Flight Aware, the plane had taken off earlier Tuesday from Marsh Harbour International Airport in the Bahamas.
The air traffic controller then asked what he could see. "I see the state of Florida and I see a small airport," Harrison told him. At this point, he refused to let fear set in.
"When I was flying and saw the state of Florida, at that second I knew I'm going to land there," he said. ?I don't know what the outcome's going to be, I don't know how it's going to happen, but I knew I'm going to have to land this airplane because there's no other option."
"People said what if you had crashed and died" You could have at least called her, you could have reached out to her, you had time," Harrison said. "In my mind I knew I wasn't going to die, and the thought never crossed my mind to call and tell my wife bye.'"
Air Traffic Controller Robert Morgan, who coached Harrison into a safe landing at Palm Beach International Airport, told him the runway would appear bigger and bigger as he approached. At around 200 feet, Harrison said Morgan told him he needed to slow down.
"At that point I told the other guy, hey take the throttle and dump it on the floor. Just dump it on the floor as far as it will go," Harrison said. The plane touched down safely.
"I said thank you for everything and I threw the headset on the dash and I said the biggest prayer I've ever said in my life," Harrison recalled. "That's when all the emotion set in," he added.
The pilot was taken to a hospital and is expected to be released early this week, Harrison said. Harrison then called his wife, who wasn't expecting to hear from him so early. She said that last year, her sister was six months pregnant when her husband died, "so honestly I took a deep breath and prepared myself for it not to be him on the other line."