A passenger with no previous flight experience took the controls of the Cessna Caravan they were aboard after the pilot fell ill and—with the help of an air traffic controller who also is a CFI—successfully landed the aircraft at Florida's Palm Beach International Airport (KPBI) yesterday afternoon. The Caravan—N333LD, registered to a Connecticut-based operator—was en route from Marsh Harbour, Bahamas, to Treasure Coast International Airport in Fort Pierce, Florida, when the pilot became incapacitated.
According to reports, the passenger contacted air traffic control by radio when the pilot became incoherent due to a “possible medical condition.” The passenger notified ATC that he was in sight of the Florida coast and added he had no idea how to land the airplane.
The controller handled the call and, though not familiar with the Caravan’s cockpit, immediately began bringing up documentation of its controls to guide the passenger step-by-step. In communications captured by LiveATC, he is heard giving the substitute pilot instructions to try and hold the wings level, push forward on the controls, and begin to gradually descend, as ATC worked to locate the Caravan on radar.
Once the aircraft was identified, the controller decided to vector the wayward airplane on an approach to KPBI due to its 10,000-foot runway. The controller was then able to talk the passenger down to a safe landing.