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Florida man describes landing plane with no flight experience

“I’ve got a serious situation here, the pilot is incoherent and I have no idea how to fly the airplane.”
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Posted at 1:03 PM, May 16, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-17 05:22:09-04

PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. — A Florida man with no flying experience recounted landing a plane at a South Florida airport last week after the pilot became incapacitated.

Darren Harrison, 39, could be heard over the radio on May 10 telling Air Traffic Control, “I’ve got a serious situation here, the pilot is incoherent and I have no idea how to fly the airplane.” 

Harrison was one of two passengers in a single-engine Cessna 208 that had taken off earlier that day from Marsh Harbour International Airport in the Bahamas.

Harrison described the intense situation to Today's Savannah Guthrie on Monday.

Harrison was able to land the plane at Palm Beach International with guidance from Robert Morgan, a certified flight instructor, and air traffic controller. Several other controllers also assisted Harrison before he was put into contact with Morgan.

Controller Christopher “Chip” Flores at the Fort Pierce Tower received the initial radio call, the FAA said. Flores, with help from operational supervisor Justin Boyle, instructed Harrison to fly straight ahead and to start a gradual descent which allowed controllers time to locate the plane.

Joshua Somers, the operations supervisor at Palm Beach air traffic control facility, helped track the plane which was identified as being over the Atlantic Ocean, 20 miles from Boca Raton Airport.

Harrison was eventually put in contact with Morgan using basic emergency radios.

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

Harrison successfully landed the plane just before 12:30 p.m. Neither passenger had any injuries.

“At the end of the day, I feel like I was just doing my job,” Morgan said. “But it was like on a higher level than you thought you’d have to do it.”

Harrison told Guthrie the pilot is expected to be released from the hospital Monday.

Harrison, the passenger-turned-pilot, returned home after the experience to his wife who is seven months pregnant.

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Controller Robert Morgan (left) and Darren Harrison (right) at the Palm Beach air traffic control facility.