Stricken Caravan Pilot Recovering From Artery Tear


The 64-year-old pilot who collapsed at the controls of a Cessna Caravan before an untrained passenger took the controls a couple of weeks ago is recovering from the life-threatening condition that felled him. At a news conference last week, reporters were told Kenneth Allen, of Lake Wales, Florida, suffered an aortic dissection, a stroke-like event in which the inner lining of the aortic artery separates from the outer layer to create a blockage. Allen complained of a headache moments before he became incapacitated. When he lost consciousness, passenger Darren Harrison, who had no flying experience, took control, recovered from a dive and with help from air traffic controllers managed to find Palm Beach Airport and land the aircraft. For Allen, the emergency was far from over and another heroic effort was about to begin.

Paramedics met the airplane and rushed him to a local hospital. The relatively rare artery tear was diagnosed and he was sent to another hospital where Dr. Nishant Patel conducted a nine-hour surgery to fix the issue. Patel said the surgery, which involved cooling Allen’s body to 68 degrees so blood flow could be interrupted to replace the damaged section of artery, was a success and Allen is recovering. It’s not clear whether the condition will cause Allen to lose his medical.

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. Whoa I had one of these! Mine took the form of a stroke due to occurring in the vertebral artery in my neck. Most are believed to be due to injury, often minor, plus bad luck. The chest ones are apparently often weightlifters who banged the bar on their chests the wrong way. No one who treated me had heard of a re-occurrence. The only well-known example we could find was the Australian national cricket player who died immediately after taking a knock to the head just below his helmet.

  2. For those who are scratching their heads at Allen’s body temp being lowered to 20 degrees F, well below freezing, his body temp was actually lowered to 20 degrees C or 68 degrees F.

  3. Thankful to get this update on Kenneth Allen’s condition. Prayers that he totally recovers. Some of us with known conditions should consider having their spouse take the Pinch Hitters Course to know how to land safely.

  4. Happy to hear the pilot had a successful surgical treatment!

    For the record, aortic dissection has only a passing similarity to a stroke. A stroke occurs when neurological (brain) tissue is damaged due to a lack of blood (either because a vessel has ruptured or has become obstructed). Stokes almost always lead to some amount of neurological impairment (speech, motor control, cognition…). Some people have full recovery and some don’t.

    Aortic dissection is the failure of the largest blood vessel in the body (the aorta, which carries the entire blood supply of the body from the left ventricle of the heart). When severe, death can occur in minutes due to a near complete loss of blood pressure. Risk factors for aortic dissection are uncontrolled high blood pressure, older age (sorry), some connective tissue disorders, and a congenital condition of the aortic valve (bicuspid aortic valve).

    The treatment and the impact of both conditions differ considerably (although either one can kill you).

  5. Condolences in advance towards the FAA yanking whatever they want. Considering the recent red bull etc stupidity (not justifying any of it) done for stunt value, Allen’s actual emergency might qualify for certificate action. I sincerely hope not.

    Fortunately the impromptu pilot, not having any certification, need not be concerned about any yanking. Unless he decides to take up flying in the future, at which point the FAA may come up with a retroactive excuse.