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Pilot who suffered medical emergency during flight describes 'God's plan'

Cessna 208 made emergency landing at Palm Beach International Airport on May 10
PIlot Kenneth Allen speaks at a news conference in Palm Beach Gardens on May 26, 2022.jpg
Posted at 9:23 AM, May 26, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-26 16:35:02-04

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. — A pilot who became incapacitated mid-flight spoke publicly Thursday for the first time since a passenger onboard landed the small plane at Palm Beach International Airport earlier this month.

Ken Allen, who's been a pilot since 1988 and flight instructor since 2016, said God was with him on May 10 when Allen was at the controls of a single-engine Cessna 208 traveling from the Bahamas to Fort Pierce.

Allen said the aircraft was about 60 miles offshore just before noon when his head started pounding and he saw blue lights sparkling in front of his eyes.

"That's when God said, I've got a plan. And His plan was put into motion," Allen said Thursday during a news conference at Palm Beach Gardens Medical Center. "And He kept His hands guiding everyone through the flight and successful landing."

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Shortly thereafter, Allen became unconscious. Doctors said Allen had suffered a life-threatening aortic dissection.

"Most patients with this diagnosis unfortunately won't make it to the hospital," said Dr. Nishant Patel, a cardiothoracic surgeon at Palm Beach Gardens Medical Center who performed life-saving surgery on Allen. "Every hour that you have a type A dissection, there's a 1% to 3% increased risk of passing away."

Dr. Nishant Patel, a cardiothoracic surgeon at Palm Beach Gardens Medical Center, speaks at a news conference on May 26, 2022.jpg
Dr. Nishant Patel, a cardiothoracic surgeon at Palm Beach Gardens Medical Center, speaks at a news conference on May 26, 2022.

Lakeland man Darren Harrison, 39, who had no flying experience, miraculously took control of the aircraft and landed it successfully at PBIA.

"The first thing I said to Darren when I talked to him, 'I'm sorry for putting your life in danger,'" Allen said Thursday. "I've got some guilt for that."

Robert Morgan, a part-time flight instructor and air traffic controller at PBIA, talked Harrison through the ordeal, helping him to land the plane safely.

A single-engine Cessna 208 following an emergency landing at Palm Beach International Airport on May 10, 2022.jpg
A single-engine Cessna 208 following an emergency landing at Palm Beach International Airport on May 10, 2022.

"There's no doubt God was with them, guiding them every step of the way," Allen said, adding the whole experience has been surreal. "I'm happy to be here and I'm happy to tell my story. And I think it's a good story. But I'm just a small part."

Allen, who lives in Polk County, is expected to make a full recovery and said he feels "pretty good."