Caravan Passenger Who Landed Plane Tells Story On Today

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The untrained passenger who landed a Cessna Caravan at Palm Beach Airport last week has broken his silence and will appear on the Today Show Monday to tell the story from his perspective. Darren Harrison’s phone has been blowing up with media requests for interviews (AVweb included) since he planted the Caravan on the runway at Palm Beach last Tuesday after the pilot collapsed at the controls. Harrison picked NBC’s flagship morning show and was interviewed by Savannah Guthrie in a hangar. The promo clip released on Sunday deals with the Lakeland, Florida, flooring store owner’s calm demeanor in facing a nearly impossible situation.

Harrison, 39, who was one of two passengers on the Caravan on a flight from the Bahamas, said there was no time to panic and he just buckled down to the task at hand. “Either you do what you have to do to control the situation or you’re going to die, and that’s what I did,” he told Guthrie. With help from Robert Morgan, a controller who is also a flight instructor (who gave numerous interviews), Harrison was able to find the airport, set up for landing and make an unremarkable looking three-pointer at Palm Beach. It was such a non-event that the forums were immediately filled with comments questioning the circumstances and Harrison’s apparent lack of flying credentials. But it appears his only connection to aviation is the fact that his flooring and blind store is across Drane Field Road from Lakeland Linder Airport.

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11 COMMENTS

  1. Is there a story of piloting technique in this case?

    On speed, trimmed, start descent at a good point and adjust a bit with throttle?

    (Does the video and other interviews give details? I do not do videos.)

    • If you go to Today.com you can read the article about the interview.

      When the pilot went unconscious the plane begin a spiralling descent. The passenger reached around the pilot in the seat to pull back and level the wings. When asked how he knew what to do, he guessed it was “common sense from being on airplanes”.

  2. And, with absolutely no prior aviation experience, he reached around the pilot, took his headset, found the PTT switch and calmly conversed with ATC to a normal landing?

    Pull the other one.

    He has either had a lesson sometime in the past, flown Flight Simulator/Xplane, or at least watches Mentor Pilot on YouTube. I’m not buying absolute novice status.

    • Maybe he has seen a YouTube video. Or a movie. Believe it or not, putting on a headset and talking is not hard to figure out. The yoke and throttle on any airplane are fairly prominent and intuitive. Anyone who has ever seen an airplane knows the phrase “pull up.”
      Some cars have different gear shifts and light switches, yet I’m sure you could manage to drive them with minimal transition training. If your life depends on it…

  3. I’m not buying it. No way. Not for a second. For all of the recurrent training mandated by the FAA, insurance companies, etc. and every pilot out there knows how fast skills diminish when not flying on a regular basis, this guy with no experience whatsoever lands a caravan under what can be called extreme duress. Ahhhh… no. No, no, no no no. No.

    • I’m not sure how much is recorded. As I understand it, the pax-pilot didn’t want to mess with the glass cockpit to change to a better radio frequency for fear he’d lose all communication.

      So the CFI called him on his cell-phone.

      I don’t think that conversation was recorded. But the inherent duplex nature of cell-phone communication versus simplex comm radios means the CFI and pax-pilot could communicate more easily and rapidly. This probably contributed to the successful outcome.