Passenger Becomes Pilot In Emergency

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Seventy-seven-year-old non-pilot passenger John Wildey became his own rescuer when he took the controls of a Cessna 172 at night, Tuesday, and with the help of an instructor on the ground, landed safely at Humberside airport, UK, after the plane's pilot lost consciousness. The pilot was removed from the cockpit after the landing and later died at a local hospital. Early reports suggest the cockpit was dimly lit and the aircraft was not operating external lights -- complicating things for both Wildey and his helpers on the ground. The aircraft's landing came on a fourth attempt and it was not smooth. 

Wildey told BBC news he initiated contact with controllers with a "mayday, mayday, mayday" call roughly 25 minutes after the flight began. He told controllers where he believed he was and they scrambled to formulate a useful plan. An RAF helicopter was sent to help with the attempt and early reports suggest two instructors were involved in guiding Wildey safely to earth. For his part, Wildey managed to maintain control and guide the aircraft to the airport where he began what became a series of approaches -- the fourth of which resulted in a landing. Witnesses (controllers deployed the airport's emergency personnel) reportedly saw sparks upon touchdown. Wildey himself later described the landing as a controlled crash. Instructor Roy Murray, who helped guide Wildey in flight, told the Independent.co.uk, "He did a beautiful landing," adding, "I wouldn't be frightened to fly with him." Murray said he felt "satisfied but sad," about the event, knowing he'd helped one man safely return but also that another had passed away.