Passenger Explains His Lifesaving Landing

'I knew if I didn't react, that we would die,' Darren Harrison tells 'Today' show
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted May 16, 2022 11:34 AM CDT
Updated May 16, 2022 11:45 AM CDT
Passenger Explains How He Landed His Plane
Darren Harrison.   (Today/YouTube)

(Newser) – It was an incredible story: A passenger with zero flying experience safely landed the small plane he was in after the pilot had a medical emergency. Now, 39-year-old Darren Harrison tells Today about the experience, and how he managed to stay calm. "It was a life or death situation," says Harrison. "Either you do what you have to do to control the situation or you're going to die, and that's what I did." Harrison was flying home from a fishing trip in the Bahamas—one other passenger was in the plane—when the pilot fell unconscious. Harrison recalls reaching over the pilot's body to grab the controls and slowly pulling the plane out of a nosedive toward the ocean.

It was "just common sense, I guess ... because I knew if I went up and yanked that the airplane would stall," Harrison tells Savannah Guthrie. "And I also knew at the rate we were going, we were probably going way too fast and it would rip the wings off the airplane." He then got in contact with air traffic control, and a flight instructor managed to talk him through the landing at Palm Beach International Airport in Florida. The first call he made on the ground was to his wife, who's pregnant with their first child, per People. Another footnote: The pilot who fell unconscious survived (his ailment hasn't been specified) and is expected to be out of the hospital this week. (Read more airplane stories.)

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