Pilot Incapacitated, Passenger Crash-Lands Meridian


A female passenger in a Piper Meridian took the controls after the 79-year-old pilot was incapacitated, and she crash-landed the big single off the runway at Martha’s Vineyard Airport in Massachusetts on Saturday. Both were taken to a nearby hospital, but the woman was uninjured and was released. The pilot remains there with an unspecified “serious life-threatening condition.” The aircraft was seriously damaged.

Authorities told local media the plane was on final when the pilot suffered an “undisclosed medical emergency.” State Police said the woman took the controls and flew the plane to “a hard landing outside the runway that caused the aircraft’s left wing to break in half.” Identities of the two have not been released and it’s not known if the passenger had any flight training.

Russ Niles
Russ Niles is Editor-in-Chief of AVweb. He has been a pilot for 30 years and joined AVweb 22 years ago. He and his wife Marni live in southern British Columbia where they also operate a small winery.

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  1. What’s that line that gets trotted out with casual abandon?
    Any landing you walk away from is a good landing?
    I guess that’s ok if you’re not paying for the mayhem left in the wake.
    Anyway a good outcome considering the given facts.

  2. Great job ! Just another reason to give the person you fly often with, a little stick time.

  3. Russ,

    I’m probably nearly your age and I tend to have old fashioned values. I also enjoy your articles. But ask yourself this; if a male passenger had landed this airplane, would you have felt it necessary to call out the gender of that person?

  4. “If you can walk away from a landing, it’s a good landing. If you use the airplane the next day, it’s an outstanding landing.” Chuck Yeager. Half of this aphorism was used.

  5. The newer versions of this aircraft can land themselves with no damage. Great job by the passenger though!

  6. 79 year old pilot ! Makes one wonder about the effectiveness of annual medical checks.
    Lucky it happened where it did, could have been a different ball game if it had happened in a busy airport/rwy environment rather than at Marthas`. For me it is not what happened but what could have happened.

  7. I knew someone would point out the age of the pilot. A medical emergency can happen to anyone at any time.

    That being said, we should all know when it’s time to put the headset away for good. And or minimize the workload.

    That aircraft is way out of my league. And I am 29 years younger.