Passenger takes controls of plane after pilot falls ill

Man with no experience of flying lands aircraft at Humberside on fourth attempt

A passenger took over the controls of an aeroplane and made an emergency landing at Humberside airport on Tuesday after the pilot fell ill.

The light aircraft had taken off from a small airfield in Doncaster, about 25 miles (40km) away, early on Tuesday morning, carrying just the pilot and the passenger. The pilot made a distress call at 6.20pm and shortly afterwards became so ill that the responsibility of landing the plane fell to the passenger, who had never flown a plane before, according to one of the two flight instructors on the ground who guided him in.

Roy Murray, who works at a flying school based at the airport, told the BBC: “He made quite a good landing, actually. He didn’t know the layout of the aeroplane. He didn’t have lights on so he was absolutely flying blind as well.

“I think he’d flown once before as a passenger but never flown an aeroplane before.”

He said he was conscious of making sure that the man did not panic during the landing procedure. Without instruction, Murray said, the man probably “would have just gone into the ground and that would have been the end of it”. Murray described it as a “fantastic feeling” having helped to save someone’s life. The condition of the pilot has not yet been confirmed.

The plane landed safely on its fourth attempt, prompting cheers in the airport control room, said Murray. The airport, in north Lincolnshire, had put in place its emergency plan, involving police and fire crews.

Stuart Sykes told the BBC he had witnessed the aircraft land shortly before 8pm. “It came down with a bump, a bump, a bump, hit the front end down. I heard some crashing and it’s come to a halt,” he said.

“There were a few sparks and three or four crashes, that must have been the propeller hitting the floor. Then it uprighted again and came to a stop.”

Roads around the airport were closed while two incoming flights to the airport, from Scotland and the Netherlands, were delayed as a result of the incident.

An airport spokesman said: “The emergency was declared at 6.20pm by the pilot of a two-seater aircraft. Shortly afterwards he was taken ill and became unable to fly it and that responsibility then fell to his passenger.

“Humberside international airport put into operation their emergency plan. The passenger flew over the airport a couple of times and then was talked down by two flight instructors and the emergency services were waiting for them when he landed safely.”

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