Passenger Grabs Controls After Pilot Collapses


When Carli McConaughy pulled on the big control column in the middle of the helicopter she was flying in over Honolulu last week, she had no idea what she was doing but she likely saved her own life and those of her fianc and the unconscious pilot beside her. McConaughy, 35, and her newly betrothed Adam Barnett, 31, both of Joliet, Illinois, took a sightseeing flight as part of their Hawaiian vacation after getting engaged on Oahu. They told the Chicago Tribune that as they skirted the waterfront at 1,000 feet, the pilot suddenly slumped over and the Robinson R-44 dove for the water. Barnett yelled from the back seat for her to “pull it up” while gesturing to the cyclic control between their seats and McConaughy, who had no flight experience, gave it a mighty tug. It arrested the descent enough that all survived the impact with relatively minor injuries.

“We hit the water hard,” she said. “I just think it was the best way we could have crashed. We all survived.” The aircraft crashed in waist-deep water and Burnett was able to pull his future bride and the 57-year-old pilot out. They were taken to shore by first responders on jet skis. All had broken bones but no life-threatening injuries. The company that operated the helicopter told the Honolulu Star Advertiser the pilot suffered a medical issue on the flight but did not elaborate.