cessna aircraft
Jade Small
Jade Small
May 13, 2023 ·  4 min read

Passenger With No Flying Experience Safely Lands Plane After Pilot Becomes Too Ill To Fly

When it comes to flying planes, no one likes to hear that the pilot has no experience. There was a recent incident where a passenger, with no flying experience, safely landed a small plane after the pilot’s health took a turn for the worst.  

Passenger Took Responsibility

The aircraft was a Cessna 208. The pilot was flying his passengers from the Bahamas to Florida on May 10th. The two passengers were most likely alarmed when their trusted pilot informed them he was feeling ill. According to the FAA, and the Federal Aviation Administration, the plot ended up falling against the controls in mid-flight. This sent the plane into a nose dive towards the ground, as well as turning sharply. That is when Darren Harrison stepped in, taking his life into his own hands. 

He was left with no choice, so he took over the controls, knowing he has never flown a plane in his life. Darren first had to work out how to contact the air traffic control so he could alert them of the danger they were in. 

Darren told air traffic control: “I’ve got a serious situation here. My pilot has gone incoherent. I have no idea how to fly the airplane.”

Control Replied: “ATC: 333 Lima Delta, Roger, what’s your position?”

“I have no idea. I can see the coast of Florida in front of me but I have no idea.” Darren reported.

To which control answered: “Maintain wings level and just try to follow the coast, either northbound or southbound. We’re trying to locate you.”

Image via CTV

Read: The Seven Secret Words On A Flight That Means There’s Danger

The Air Traffic controller Guided Them to Safety

The air traffic controller that helped Darren through the situation was Robert Morgan. He works for Palm Beach International Airport and has been a flight instructor for 20 

years now. The only thing is, he had never flown that specific plane that Darren had taken over. He ended up taking out a map of the plane’s cockpit and he guided Darren using that. WPBF-TV interviewed Mr. Morgan to get some insight. 

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“I knew the plane was flying like any other plane. I just knew I had to keep him calm, point him to the runway and tell him how to reduce the power so he could descend to land,” said Morgan. 

Morgan knew the passenger had no experience, but he has had a lot of experience guiding planes to the ground. One of his instructions to Darren was: “Try to hold the wings level and see if you can start descending for me. Push forward on the controls and descend at a very slow rate. Try to follow the coast either north or southbound. We’re trying to locate you.”

They had taken off with the intention to land at Boca Raton, Florida, but Morgan decided it best to guide them to Palm Beach International Airport because the runway was not as congested with other planes, and the runway was much longer. As they reached their final approach, Morgan instructed Darren on how to start their descent. “push forward on the controls and descend at a very slow rate” Morgan advised. 

Image Credit: CBS

The plane landed safely at 16:45 and there were no injuries reported from either passenger. The pilot is now being treated at a hospital, but it is not clear what his medical emergency was. 

Darren Made an Impressive Landing

the guidance from Morgan helped Darren land the plane safely There were other planes waiting on the tarmac for take-off, and when the tower informed them that a passenger had landed that plane, they were mightily impressed. They were not the only ones, because Mr. Morgan himself was amazed at Darren’s cool-headedness, and ability to function in such a high-stress situation. 

The tower operator told an American Airline pilot who was waiting for their turn to take off: “You just witnessed a couple of passengers land that plane.” To which the pilot responded: “Did you say the passengers landed the airplane? Oh my God. Great job.”

Keep Reading: An A380 superjumbo just completed a flight powered by cooking oil


  1. Untrained passenger lands Florida plane after pilot falls ill.” BBC News. 12 May 2022.
  2. Passenger with ‘no idea’ how to fly plane lands aircraft in Florida after pilot has medical emergency.NBC News. Chantal Da Silver and Marlene Lenthang. 11 May 2022.

The lead image is for representational purposes only and is not an actual image of the aircraft from this story. Lead image credit: Shutterstock