• Wed. Jun 29th, 2022

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‘It was a life-or-death situation’: Passenger recounts safely landing plane after pilot passed out 

A passenger who safely landed a single-engine plane after the pilot passed out said he did not have time to panic because he knew it was a “life-or-death situation.”

Darren Harrison has been praised for his heroic actions after he landed a Cessna 208 plane flying from the Bahamas to Florida on Tuesday. Harrison, who has no flight experience, was one of two passengers on the aircraft when the pilot said he wasn’t feeling well and then lost consciousness.

“Somebody asked me the other day what my heart rate was or what I thought my heart rate was when all of that was going on, and I said probably in the 90s. And they said, what about when it was all over. And I said it was probably 160,” he told Savannah Guthrie in an exclusive interview on NBC’s “TODAY” show.

Harrison climbed over three rows of seats into the cockpit as the plane was in a nosedive and moved the unconscious pilot out of the way so he could put on the headphone and alert air traffic control to the situation.

“I’ve got a serious situation here. My pilot has gone incoherent. I have no idea how to fly the airplane,” Harrison said, according to audio from a call he made to air traffic control at the Fort Pierce tower.

Air traffic controllers and part-time flight instructor Robert “Bobby” Morgan instructed him in how to safely fly and land the plane at Palm Beach International Airport.

A small aircraft on the runway at Palm Beach International Airport.
A small aircraft on the runway at Palm Beach International Airport.TODAY

Harrison said on “TODAY” that he couldn’t panic because he knew it was a dire situation.

“By the time I stopped the plane, that’s when it hit me,” he said. “I was pretty calm and collected the whole time, because I knew it was a life-or-death situation. Either you do what you have to do to control the situation or you’re gonna die. And that’s what I did.”

An incident report from the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office says a call came in at about 12:27 p.m. for an unconscious pilot with “three souls on board.” About 10 minutes after the call, around 12:38 p.m., the plane landed safely.

The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating.

Harrison’s full interview with Guthrie will air Monday on “TODAY.”