Passenger lands plane after pilot falls ill

LONDON Wed Oct 9, 2013 2:03pm BST

LONDON (Reuters) - A passenger with almost no flying experience landed a light aircraft after being talked down by an instructor on the ground when the pilot fell ill at the controls mid-air, a British airport said on Wednesday.

The two men, who had been enjoying a day's flying, were in a four-seater Cessna 172 when the pilot, who later died, became unwell as they headed back to the small Sandtoft airfield near Doncaster in northeast England on Tuesday evening.

Having received a mayday message, a decision was made to divert the plane to the larger Humberside Airport nearby where a flying instructor was called in and emergency services alerted, a spokesman for the airport said.

Instructor Roy Murray was taken to the control tower and he gave instructions to the passenger, whose name was only given as John.

"You can imagine it was getting dark, this guy's had about half an hour experience of flying an aircraft, he's never landed one, he's sitting in the wrong seat - in other words he hasn't got any of the dials in front of him and he has to land this thing," the spokesman said.

After flying over the airport a couple of times, the passenger was able to bring the plane down.

"It didn't crash. He landed it safely," the spokesman said.

Murray said the man had made a "beautiful landing".

"I kept watching him and saying keep pulling back, pulling back, pull the levers back, whatever you can see, pull back and just hold it back, because if you land with a nose wheel down you can take the nose wheel off and then you've got all sorts of problems," he told BBC TV.

"He kept pulling back, doing as I was telling him to do, until he came to a stop."

Police said an inquest would be held to determine the cause of death of the pilot, who has not yet been named.

(Reporting by Michael Holden; editing by Tom Pfeiffer)