The family of the hero passenger who landed a plane in Florida with no experience after the pilot became incoherent say they’re proud and impressed of the interior designer.
Darren Harrison, 39, has been identified as the passenger who took over a Cessna 208 Caravan traveling from Leonard M. Thompson International Airport in Marsh Harbor, the Bahamas on Tuesday and safely landed the plane at at the Palm Beach International Airport in Florida after the pilot suffered a medical emergency and fell unconscious.
Harrison currently works as a lead commercial and residential flooring specialist at Sunshine Interiors, a family-owned interior design company based in Florida.
The 39-year-old has spent 16 years in the flooring industry after being introduced to the business by his father and now works on commercial projects throughout the state of Florida, according to his employers.
Matthew Harrison, 37, told the New York Post that his older cousin Darren, who serves as vice president at Sunshine Interiors, was returning from a fishing trip in the Bahamas to his pregnant wife.
Darren Harrison, 39, (pictured) has been identified as the passenger who took over a Cessna 208 Caravan and safely landed the plane in Florida after the pilot suffered a medical emergency and fell unconscious
Harrison (right) is pictured with air traffic controller Robert Morgan who printed out a layout of the cockpit of a Cessna 208 Caravan airplane to help the 39-year-old land the flight
Harrison currently works as a lead commercial and residential flooring specialist at Sunshine Interiors, a family-owned interior design company based in Florida
Matthew said he could not believe his own relative was behind the miraculous landing.
‘I was like, ‘Wait, that’s my cousin?’ Matthew told the Post.
Matthew said he did not know his cousin could be so calm under immense pressure.
‘That was insane. I’m impressed too, he was so calm, I’ve never known him to be that calm before,’ he said.
But Darren’s uncle, Glenn Harrison, said he knew his nephew to be able to keep his cool.
‘I know he was probably scared to death but it doesn’t surprise me him doing what he did,’ Glenn told The Post. ‘He’s pretty good about keeping his cool, it doesn’t surprise me he kept his composure, followed directions and everything turned out great.’
Matthew said he texted Darren’s wife to let her know how proud of his cousin he was.
‘I messaged his wife and said, ”Will you reach out to him and let him know I’m super impressed and proud of him, that’s amazing,” Matthew told the Post.
‘She said, ”I know that’s not like a phone call you expect to get…”and when he told her what happened she said, ”You did what?” Matthew said, laughing.
Harrison quickly sprang into action after his pilot became incapacitated.
He was aided by Robert Morgan, an air traffic controller, who printed out a picture of the cockpit controls to to guide the passenger through the steps of flying and landing the plane as he struggled with the navigation system.
‘I just feel like it was probably meant to happen,’ Morgan told WBPF. ‘I knew the plane was flying like any other plane. I just had to keep him calm, point him to the runway and tell him how to reduce the power so he could descend to land.
‘Before I knew it, he was like, ”I’m on the ground. How do I turn this thing off?”
Once he landed, Morgan said, he ran out to meet Harrison and the two hugged on the tarmac.
‘It felt really good to help somebody, and he told me that he was going to go home tonight to see his pregnant wife.’
Air traffic controller Robert Morgan, right, printed out a picture of a Cessna 208 Caravan plane to help guide a passenger through the steps of flying and landing the plane as he struggled with the navigation system Tuesday afternoon
Harrison has spent 16 years in the flooring industry after being introduced to the business by his father and now works on commercial projects throughout the state of Florida, according to his employers
Morgan had never flown a Cessna 208 Caravan plane, he later revealed, but is an FAA-certified flight instructor with around 1,200 hours of flying time under his belt
Air traffic control recordings have revealed just how tense the situation was as Harrison, who had no flying experience, tried to safely landed the Cessna light aircraft – a feat that one JetBlue pilot said was ‘nothing short of a miracle.’
In the audio, obtained by DailyMail.com, Harrison could be heard telling air traffic control in Fort Pierce, while flying over the Florida coastline around 70 miles north of his destination.
‘My pilot has gone incoherent. I have no idea how to fly the airplane.’
An air traffic control agent then replied: ‘Roger. What’s your position?’
The audibly shocked air traffic controller in Fort Pierce then told Harrison that he would try and locate the plane when the emergency call came through over his radio.
‘Maintain wings level and just try to follow the coast, either north or southbound,’ the controller said.
‘We’re trying to locate you.’
For the next four minutes, audio showed that Harrison remained remarkably calm as he tried to work out what to do and wait for the air traffic controller to find his aircraft.
‘Have you guys located me yet?’ he asked after a while.
‘I can’t even get my nav screen to turn on. It has all the information on it. You guys have any ideas on that?’
Harrison was eventually found flying off the coast of Boca Raton, and Morgan, at the Palm Beach airport, eventually managed to talk him down as he guided him on how to land the plane. air traffic control at Palm Beach airport managed to talk him down, guiding him how to land the plane.
The landing was a little wobbly, but ultimately safe and successful according to air traffic control, who were clearly astounded at the 39-year-old’s ability to settle the plane on the runway with no prior experience whatsoever.
‘You just witnessed a couple passengers land that plane,’ the dumbfounded air traffic controller said over the radio.
Another pilot on the runway said: ‘Did you say the passengers landed the plane?’
‘That’s correct,’ control responded.
‘Oh, my gosh. Great job!’
The pilot, who remained unconscious was later taken to the hospital as a result of the unknown illness. His condition remains unknown.
An aviation expert told CNN it is not uncommon for small turboprop airplanes such as the Cessna 208 Caravan to fly with only one pilot, particularly when the flights are private.
An FAA spokesperson confirmed they were investigating the incident and said the pilot suffered a ‘possible medical issue’ – though did not provide further details on his condition.
The Cessna 208 Caravan is seen coming in to land on Tuesday at Palm Beach airport
Harrison didn’t even know how to turn the navigation system on, and did not know the plane’s location other than ‘off the Florida coast’
The flight path of the Cessna 208 Caravan, piloted by a passenger, is displayed hereby flgithradar24. The passenger turned south and flew roughly 70 miles towards Boca Raton before heading north again to land at Palm Beach International
Air traffic controller Robert Morgan (pictured) has worked as an air traffic controller for 20 years and is an FAA certified flight instructor with around 1200 hours of flying time under his belt
The pilot was taken to hospital, and the passenger safely made it off the plane
Justin Dalmolin, a JetBlue pilot, was told to delay his takeoff to give the unnamed Cessna passenger space and time to land the plane.
‘The level of difficulty that this person had to deal with in terms of having zero flight time to fly and land a single engine turbine aircraft is absolutely incredible,’ said an amazed Dalmolin.
He told ABC 25: ‘The incredible part is not just flying the aircraft but obviously the most difficult thing which is configuring the aircraft for approach and landing. And then landing it, and that to me, for a zero time pilot.
‘I remember my first days when I first started flight training, I was white-knuckled and sweating for my first ten hours of training.’
Dalmolin said it was lucky it was daylight so that Harrison could see where he was going because it would have been extremely difficult if it the saga had unfolded overnight or in heavy fog.
‘You know it’s nothing short of a miracle and I’m really glad for them and their families they had such a great outcome,’ said Dalmolin.
John Nance, an aviation expert, also told ABC 25 that the landing of such a complex plane by someone without any flying history was a remarkable feat.
‘This is the first time I’ve ever heard of one of these being landed by somebody that has no aeronautical experience,’ Nance said.
‘The person on the airplane who had no aeronautical experience listened very carefully and obviously followed instructions with great calm.
‘That’s what made the difference.’
- Do you know the brave passenger who landed the plane? Contact newsUS@dailymail.com
How mid air drama unfolded when passenger told air traffic control: ‘I’m in a serious situation here, my pilot has gone incoherent’
Passenger: I’ve got a serious situation here. My pilot has gone incoherent. I have no idea how to fly the airplane but I am…
ATC: What’s your position?
Passenger: I have no idea. I see the coast of Florida in front of me and I have no idea.
ATC: Do you know how to operate the transponder 7700?
Passenger: Stand by, let me see. Repeat that frequency default.
ATC: Disable and put 7700 into your transponder.
Passenger: 7700, yes, yes.
ATC: Can you say again what the situation is?
Passenger: Pilot is incoherent.
ATC: That came in a little broken. What was the situation with the pilot?
Passenger: He is incoherent. He is out.
ATC: Roger. Try to hold the wings level and see if you can start descending for me. Push forward on the controls and descend at a very slow rate.
Passenger: Yea, they are descending right now at 550 feet a minute, passing 86/40.
ATC: Continue the descent and try to level off at 5,000 feet.
Passenger: 10/4 What heading do I need to be at? Give me a… heading because I have no control. (Muffled…)
ATC: Maintain length level and just try to follow the coast either north or southbound. We’re trying to locate you.
Passenger: 10/4. Passing 8600.
ATC: If able, hit the ivent button on the trans monitor.
Passenger: Which one is it?
ATC: On the trans monitor there is a button that says ivent. Hit the ivent button for me.
Passenger: I, the I what?
Passenger: I’m looking for it; can’t find it.
ATC: If able, I have a frequency for you to put into your radio. It’s 1, 32.15 132 15 – that’s Palm Beach approach. They may have a better idea of where you’re at.
ATC: Did you copy the frequency? 1, 32.15
ATC: No problem. Just continue to stay wings I will maintain 5,000 and follow the coast and we’re gonna try to find you here on the radar.
Passenger: Okay. 10/4.
Passenger: You guys located me yet? I can’t even get my screen to turn on. It has all the information on it. Any ideas on that?
ATC: Palm Beach, is… he’s… telling me you’re about 20 miles east of Boca Raton. Just continue northbound over the beach and we’ll try to get you some more further instructions. Continue to maintain 5,000 northbound over the beach.
Passenger: So, I’ve got the coast in my headlights. I’m at 72/80. Do I need to get lower?
ATC: You’re at 72/80 for your altitude?
Passenger: Yea, (Muffled)
ATC: Just continue the slow descent until you get to 5,000 feet and continue northbound over the beach and we’ll get you further instructions and get you toward an airport.
Passenger: So, northbound over the beach?
ATC: Do you have a cellphone with you?
Passenger: Yes, I do.
ATC: Do you have a cellphone number? Give me the phone number and we’ll try to get you in touch with someone that can help you.
ATC: Are you still with me?
Passenger: **** ATC:
Say it again.
ATC: I hear ***-****. What’s the area code?
Passenger: *** ATC: I heard the number ***-****. What’s the area code for it?
ATC: You still with me? Fort Pierce Tower.
Passenger: I’m going off the coast, it looks like a little bit southwest.
ATC: I’m having trouble hearing you. I heard you said something about southwest. Can you say again your cellphone number?
Passenger: (Muffled) I have no idea how to stop the airplane. I don’t know how to do anything.
ATC: Standby I’ve got some emergency situation going on. If you can hear me I have a phone number for you; ***-***-****. ***-***-****. If you receive that, give that phone number a call on your cellphone, if able.
ATC: Did you hear the transmission? Can you hear me?
Passenger: Loud and clear?
ATC: Did you hear the phone number I gave you? It’s ***-***-****. ***-***-****. Sir, if you heard the phone number, if you can give that a call, they can get you in touch with somebody that can help you maneuver that plane. Continue following the coast Can you confirm that you got that phone number? If you can, on your cellphone, give that phone number a call. They’re gonna get you in touch with somebody that can help you maneuver that plane.
ATC: While you’re making that call, just remain on the frequency and we’re gonna try and get you some more help. Is the pilot unconscious?
ATC: Can you tell me how many personnel are on the plane with you?
Passenger: I don’t know. (Muffled)
ATC: Palm Beach approach is gonna talk to you. They’re gonna direct you to the Palm Beach Airport. You should hear them on this frequency momentarily.
(Other people butt in. Long silence)
(More traffic from other flights. Long silence)
ATC: This is Fort Pierce tower – are you on the frequency?