The air traffic controller who helped a passenger land a plane safely on Tuesday after the pilot passed out is talking about the strange event.
In an interview with the FAA that was posted on Medium, Robert Morgan, a certified flight instructor who works at the Palm Beach air traffic facility, talked about the incident that made headlines.
He said that even though the situation was tense, it was business as usual in the end.
Morgan said, “At the end of the day, I just feel like I was doing my job.” “But it was harder than you thought you would have to do it.”
Gregory Battani, the head air traffic controller, called Morgan while he was on his break to ask for his help.
The pilot of a single-engine Cessna 208 plane flying from the Bahamas to Florida told his two passengers that he was feeling sick before passing out, falling against the controls, and “putting the aircraft into a nosedive and sharp turn,” according to the FAA.
A passenger, who Today named as Darren Harrison, jumped into action and climbed into the front seat of the plane, got the pilot out, and helped steady the plane.
Then, he used a radio to tell controllers at Fort Pierce Tower at Treasure Coast International Airport in Fort Pierce, Florida, that the pilot was unconscious and that he had never flown before.
NBC News got a recording of the passenger saying, “I’m in a very bad spot right now.” “My pilot is no longer making sense. I don’t even know how to fly the plane.”
When the dispatcher asked where the plane was, the passenger said, “I have no idea. In front of me is the coast of Florida. And I don’t know.”
From there, the dispatcher told the passenger how to fly the plane and get around in the sky. The FAA says that controller Christopher “Chip” Flores and operational supervisor Justin Boyle told the pilot to fly straight ahead and start a slow descent so that air traffic control could find the plane.
Joshua Somers, an operations supervisor at Palm Beach’s air traffic control facility, helped track the flight and found that it was about 20 miles from Boca Raton Airport over the Atlantic Airport.
Harrison was eventually put in touch with air traffic controllers in Palm Beach County, who then got in touch with Morgan, who knew how to fly a Cessna (though not that model). Morgan agreed to show the first-time pilot how to get to Palm Beach Airport.
At first, Morgan told the FAA that the inexperienced pilot could only tell him how high the plane was. A second person got on board to help figure out how fast the plane was going.
The FAA said that the air traffic controller gave Harrison “clear, short instructions on how to fly.” Morgan made sure Harrison understood each instruction before moving on. This was to make sure Harrison knew where he was going.
Harrison was taken to Palm Beach International Airport, which was closer than Boca Raton Airport but had a longer runway and was less busy.
The whole air traffic control team at Palm Beach Tower jumped in to help. “Nothing like that has ever happened to us… I felt like I was in a movie, “The FAA was told by Morgan. “Everyone wanted to help and got out of their offices to help in any way they could.”
Flights were stopped from taking off, holding patterns were set up for planes coming in, emergency services were called, and, most importantly, the runway was cleared.
Ryan Warren, who was in charge of air traffic, even printed out a picture of the cockpit of a Cessna 208 for Morgan to look at.
As Harrison got closer to the runway, Morgan told him what the plane would look like as it went down, how to use the brakes and adjust the levers, and “how to keep the nose just above the ground until the main gear touched down.”
In a video with the FAA, Morgan said, “I was almost certain that the breaks would be the same.” “Most of the time, the brakes are on the top of the rudder pedals.
When you’re on the runway, you just press down on the top of the pedal and it stops. So, on the way in, I kind of gave him a quick lesson on that to let him know what to expect.”
Morgan says that Harrison was “calm the whole way in,” even when the plane was no longer showing up on his radar.
“I was kind of like, ‘Oh no, what do I do now?’ so I just said, ‘Hey, I don’t see you on my radar anymore, I just want to make sure you’re still there, can you still hear me?'” Morgan said.
“Before I knew what was going on, he said, ‘I’m on the ground now. What do you want me to do?'”
The FAA said that the plane landed safely on the runway at 12:27 p.m.
People got a report from the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office that says EMS was then sent to the plane. In connection with the event, one person was taken to the hospital. No one knew right away how the person was doing.
In a statement to PEOPLE on Wednesday, Lacy Larson, a spokeswoman for the Palm Beach County Department of Airports, said, “We are so proud of the bravery shown by everyone involved in yesterday’s incident at PBI.” “We’re happy with how things turned out and wish the best for everyone.”