The passenger who safely landed a single-engine plane in Florida, US, after the pilot became incapacitated said that he did not have time to panic because he knew it was a “life-or-death situation”.
Appearing on the Today Show, Darren Harrison spoke out about his experience and explained how he was able to safely land the aircraft despite having no aviation experience. “It was a life or death situation,” he said, adding, “Either you do what you have to do to control the situation or you're going to die and that's what I did."
“The thought never crossed my mind to call and tell my wife bye.” Darren Harrison says the first person he called after he landed was his wife, who is seven months pregnant with their child. pic.twitter.com/w9R1wa7MmG— TODAY (@TODAYshow) May 16, 2022
The 39-year-old old was one of the two passengers on the aircraft when the pilot said he wasn't feeling well and then lost consciousness. He was on his way back from a fishing trip in the Bahamas when the pilot told him and the other passenger that he “didn't feel right”. Mr Harrison said that he quickly asked the pilot what needed to be done, by which point he was already unresponsive.
Mr Harrison then realised that the aircraft was nosediving, moving at a “very fast rate” over the ocean. "At that point, I knew if I didn't react, that we would die," he said of his immediate instinct. Mr Harrison also added that he reached over the unresponsive pilot and positioned his arms over him to grab the controls, slowly starting to “pull back on the stick and turn”.
But it was still not smooth sailing for the 39-year-old as he told the Today Show that when he got to the pilot's seat, he found that the headset the pilot had been using was frayed, so he had to grab the co-pilot's headset. Mr Harrison was able to connect with the air traffic, who then guided him on how to safely land.
Grabbing the wheel and pulling back, he noted that it was "just common sense, I guess, being on airplanes, because I knew if I went up and yanked that the airplane would stall".
Once they reached the ground, he said that he “slowly feathered” the brakes as they made it down the runway. Mr Harrison said that he couldn't panic because he knew it was a dire situation. "By the time I stopped the plane, that's when it hit me," he said, adding, "I was pretty calm and collected the whole time because I knew it was a life-or-death situation”.
Mr Harrison went on to say that he knew he had to do something if he wanted to see his wife, who is seven months pregnant with their first child, again. He revealed that the first call he made from the ground was to his wife. When asked how he stayed focused through the frightening ordeal, he cited God as his centre and strength through.
It is to mention, according to NBC News, an incident report from the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office says that a call came in around 12:27 noon (local time) on May 10 for an unconscious pilot with “three souls on board”. About 10 minutes after the call, the plane landed safely. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is investigating the incident.