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'Kudos to that new pilot': Air traffic controller guides passenger to land plane at Florida airport

Posted at 7:26 AM, May 11, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-11 23:23:33-04

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — An air traffic controller guided a passenger on a small private plane to land safely at Palm Beach International Airport after the pilot suffered an apparent medical issue.

According to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the incident involving a single-engine Cessna 208 occurred Tuesday about 12:30 p.m.

According to Flight Aware, the plane had taken off earlier Tuesday from Marsh Harbour International Airport in the Bahamas. The aircraft was occupied by the pilot and two passengers, according to a Federal Aviation Administration news release. Officials haven’t identified any of them.

As the plane flew over Florida, controller Christopher Flores, speaking very calmly, told the passenger to “maintain wings level and try to follow the coast, either north or southbound.” Twin controls enable a Cessna 208 to be steered from the passenger seat.

Minutes passed before controllers were able to locate the plane, which by then was heading north over Boca Raton.

Then the man’s voice seemed to fade, so the controller in Fort Pierce asked for the passenger’s cellphone number to enable controllers at Palm Beach International Airport to communicate with him more clearly.

Air traffic controller Robert Morgan, a 20-year veteran, took over at that point, talking the passenger down to a safe landing. Morgan is a certified flight instructor with experience piloting Cessna aircraft, the FAA said.

"Kudos to that new pilot," the air traffic controller said after the plane landed safely.

The Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office said one person was taken to a hospital. The person's condition was not immediately known.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.