An air traffic controller explained how an inexperienced passenger helped the plane land after the pilot became incapacitated.
“I knew the plane was flying like any other plane,” said Robert Morgan, a controller at Florida’s Palm Beach International Airport (PBIA). WPBF. “I knew I had to teach him how to reduce his power so he could keep calm and point to the runway and land.”
Morgan was hailed as a hero on Tuesday afternoon for his quick accident and professional guidance that could have saved several lives when the plane landed safely on the PBIA runway.
For an air controller who has worked at the airport for 20 years, the emergency started at lunchtime. As he was reading a book outside the tower, Chief Controller Gregory Battani gave him some startling news.
Morgan recalled what Battani told him, saying, “I have passengers flying the plane who aren’t pilots, and the pilots are powerless and they have to try and help them land.
Morgan jumped into action. Although he is an experienced flight instructor, the passengers have never been on the specific Cessna aircraft currently in service, so he used the photos on the control panel to guide them.
“I said, ‘Okay, we’ll take you to the runway. What do you see now?’” Mr. Morgan told the news station. “He said he was just passing the shoreline near Boca.”
It didn’t take long for the passengers to disembark.
“Before I knew it, he said, ‘I’m on the field, how do I turn it off?'” said Mr Morgan.
Miraculously, the passenger was able to bring the plane to a halt. When it was all over he and Morgan hugged on the runway.
“He said he wanted to come home and give his pregnant wife a hug.” said the air controller.
It’s still unclear why Cessna’s original pilot was incapacitated. The Federal Aviation Administration said the person “may have a medical problem.” The agency is investigating the case.
In a blog post, the FAA provided a detailed account of the dramatic event, explaining how an entire team of air traffic controllers, including Christopher Flores, Justin Boyle, and Joshua Somers, pitched in to help passengers before Morgan took over.
Morgan is happy to be a part of that effort, but doesn’t consider himself a hero.
“It felt like I was doing my job after all, but at a higher level than I thought I should be,” Morgan told the FAA.