hall of Motor1.com filled with aviation enthusiasts, including your humble writer who has little experience flying under the yoke of light aircraft. The Cessna 208 isn’t a multi-engine jumbo jet, but with seating for more than a dozen passengers, it’s a common commuter plane that’s a far cry from 150 or 172 coaches. So when we heard that a passenger landed safely after the pilot passed out, we were very impressed.
When we find out that passengers have absolutely no flying experience, that’s the story we make up has to share here.
On May 10 at around noon local time in Florida, air traffic controllers received a transmission from Darren Harrison. He was one of two Cessna 208 passengers returning from a fishing trip when the pilot experienced a medical emergency. Describing a “serious situation,” Harrison said the pilot was incoherent and he didn’t know how to fly the plane. Luckily, air traffic controller Robert Morgan was at work that day at the nearby Palm Beach International Airport, and he was also a certified flight instructor. Between Morgan and Harrison’s instructions to keep his cool, he drove the 208 to and crazy good landing.
Talk to Today In the video above, Harrison talks about staying calm throughout the process, saying there’s no time to panic.
“Either you do what you have to do to control the situation, or you’ll die. And that’s what I did,” Harrison said in the interview.
It sounds simple enough, and some might be lulled into thinking that landing a smaller single-engine plane like the 208 Caravan is rather easy. No – even on small trainers, the pilot has the fuel mixture settings, throttle settings, flap settings and radios to manage. The 208 also has more complex propeller and hardware setups, and then you permanent have to actually fly the plane, paying attention to the forward speed, vertical speed, altitude, tilt angle, yaw, and obstacles outside the plane as you approach the ground.
The flare – the point just before landing where the pilot pulls the plane back to a decent level – is something that takes practice to get just right. Flare too early and you’ll be hovering above the ground until you run out of runway or stop, slamming into the ground. Flare too late and you’ll go straight to the slamming section. The video at the top of the article shows Harrison getting it right, landing a bit hard but hey, even experienced pro players make a rough landing sometimes. Considering this was his absolute first attempt, Harrison’s effort was extraordinary.
The story also has a very happy ending. The pilot who experienced a medical emergency is reported to be in stable condition. As for Harrison, we don’t know if he’ll be taking flight lessons after this experience, but if any case of natural talent gets caught on camera, this could be the best we’ve seen.