Stricken Pilot In Caravan Emergency Back To Flying


The pilot whose in-flight medical crisis prompted a non-pilot passenger to land their Cessna Caravan now has his medical back. Kenneth Allen was flying two passengers from the Bahamas to Florida on May 10, 2022, when his aortic artery tore. One of the passengers, Darren Harrison, who had no flight experience, took the controls and, with help from an instructor over the radio, landed the big single pretty much flawlessly at Palm Beach Airport. As Harrison was celebrated for the outcome, Allen was far from being out of danger.

He was taken to Palm Beach Gardens Medical Center where doctors diagnosed a tear in his aorta that reached deep into his abdomen. “It really is nothing short of a miracle that he was even able to get to us,” Dr. Nishant Patel told NewsNation. He underwent emergency open heart surgery and Patel was able to repair the damage. After 17 months of recovery and rehabilitation, the FAA reissued his medical. Allen said he’s been through numerous tests and assessments and given a clean bill of health. He said he’s flown almost every day since he got his ticket back. He’s planning to fly Harrison, his wife and their 14-month-old daughter to Charleston next week.

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. I am glad that he recovered. However, if I had surgery like that, I probably would have hung up my headset.

    I had major surgery years ago, and for 3 months could barely walk up a flight of stairs. And my surgery was a fraction of what he went through.

    Everyone is different regarding their recovery time and physical condition. But since I just fly for a hobby and recreation, I can find other outlets.

  2. My neighbor had that. Fortunately a heart hospital was nearby. Surgery was 10 hours with only a 5% chance of it being successful. He survived and his recovery was similar to just bypass surgery. Happy for this pilot. Very fortunate.

  3. While it was pretty amazing and wonderful that Harrison was able to land the plane safely that day, the true miracle is that Allen actually survived. Aortic tears are generally fatal, even with rapid treatment. It is great that he has been able to recover and get back in the air.

  4. Spontaneous dissection of the aortic artery is a dire emergency that many people do not survive. Mr. Allen’s remarkable recovery is an inspirational example of human resilience.

  5. I learned from reading something similar years ago and incorporate this in my pre-flight routine. 1. Pick the most capable pas

  6. I learned from reading something similar years ago and incorporate this in my pre-flight routine. 1. Pick the most capable passenger to sit in the right seat. 2. Give them a small cheat sheet of what to do (keep the wings and nose level and call 121.5 for help). 3. Pre-flight show them the controls, throttle, ASI, altimeter, flaps, pus-to-talk button, etc. 4. Give them a sectional with a line drawn to the closest, biggest runway with emergency response (usually Joint Base Lewis McCord) and once on the air give them a little instruction on how to fly level, make gradual turns and gradual climbs and descents. Point in direction of biggest runway. Stress talking on radio and how to talk rwo-way. But really stress they can do this if something happens to me if they just remain calm and follow all the instructions from ATC. I fly a lot more confident that if something sudden happens to me my passengers will survive and I’ll hopefully get medical attention in time to survive also. I wrote a recommendation to the FAA 16 years ago to suggest pilots be trained to do something similar with passengers but never heard back from them.

  7. I’m glad he’s safe and back in the air. I wonder if his non – flying passenger has decided to go for his Private ticket?

  8. Thanks for the update on Kenneth Allen. It’s a nice ending to a great story. Well, maybe a report on that next flight with Darren Harrison and his wife would be an appropriate epilogue.