A UK man was forced to jump in and land a plane on Tuesday when the pilot collapsed at the controls and died, officials say.
Ron Murray, a flight instructor, helped the passenger guide the plane in for an emergency landing in conditions which he described as “flying blind”.
“He didn’t know the layout of the airplane, 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 airplane before,” Murray said.
The passenger hasn’t been publicly identified, but according to Murray, the man was lucky to have come out of the situation alive. After several passes of the runway, he was finally able to set the plane down safely with a minimal amount of damage; witnesses say the propeller hit the ground and threw sparks at one point.
“It’s a fantastic feeling knowing I have achieved something and probably saved somebody’s life,” Murray said. “I think without any sort of talk down he would have just gone into the ground and that would have been the end of it.”
The pilot’s death is not being treated as suspicious at this time; an autopsy report is expected sometime this week. His identity is being withheld with respect to his family. As for the passenger, he’s being hailed as a hero by those who are familiar with air travel.
“For somebody who is not a pilot but has been around airfields and been a passenger on several occasions to take control is nothing short of phenomenal,” said Richard Tomlinson, a friend of the pilot.