Things That Matter

After His Pilot Fainted, This Passenger With No Flight Experience Landed the Plane

A man flying from the Bahamas found himself in the cockpit after the plane’s pilot suddenly fell ill and became unconscious. The man, named Darren Harrison, relied on the wisdom of air traffic controllers to safely land the Cessna 208, a single-engine utility aircraft that seats nine, at Palm Beach International Airport.

“I’ve got a serious situation. My pilot has gone incoherent. I have no idea how to fly the airplane,” said Harrison to air traffic controllers in newly released audio from the day of his heroic landing.

“What was the situation with the pilot?” asked the air traffic controller, named Robert Morgan, to which Harrison said: “He is incoherent. He is out.” From there, Morgan guided Harrison with a set of specific instructions on how to land the aircraft, and eventually put him in touch with air traffic controllers at Palm Beach International Airport to find a suitable runway for landing.

During an interview on TODAY, Morgan said, “The pilot was slumped over on the controls and then 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.”

Meanwhile, Darren Harrison’s uncle, Glenn, had this to say to the New York Post about his nephew: “I know he was probably scared to death but it doesn’t surprise me him doing what he did. He’s pretty good about keeping his cool, it doesn’t surprise me he kept his composure, followed directions and everything turned out great.”

“We’ve never had anything like that … I felt like I was in a movie,” Morgan said in an FAA news release. “Everybody wanted to participate and came out of the offices to assist in any kind of way.”

Harrison was identified as a 39-year-old vice president at Sunshine Interiors in Florida. Morgan, a part-time flight instructor, said that Harrison was “my best student ever.” Although many others involved with the landing have spoken to the media, Harrison himself has declined all interview requests about the situation.

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