Man Lands Plane During First Flying Lesson After Pilot Passes Out: Reports

The two-seater Cessna was safely landed by a first-time flying student.
The two-seat Cessna was flying over western Australia. iStock

An Australian man on his first flying lesson was forced to land the aircraft himself after his instructor passed out at the controls, according to local reports.

Matt Sylvester, a 29-year-old father of three, was about an hour into his maiden instruction when the teacher slumped forward in his seat.

"Emergency, emergency, emergency. This is Tango, Foxtrot, Romeo. Can you hear me?" Sylvester radios as he flies over western Australia.

Air Traffic Control: "Tango, Foxtrot, Romeo, I can hear you. Do you know how to operate an airplane?"

Sylvester: "Very, very light. This is my first lesson."

What followed, according to audio of the conversation, was an extremely calm back-and-forth between the tower at Perth's Jandakot Airport and the photographer, whose wife and three children were waiting on the ground for him. 

The pilot, Sylvester advised, was "leaning over my shoulder. I'm trying to keep him up, but he keeps falling down."

Air Traffic Control: "Your job right now is just to keep focusing on that aircraft. ... We're tracking where you are at the moment. You're doing a really great job. I know this is really stressful. But you're going to do an amazing job and we're going to help you get down to the ground."

Sylvester was told to concentrate on keeping the wings level, and to reduce his speed as he prepared the plane for landing. He did several passes by the airport runaway before finally setting down.

"Just keep an eye on your speed, that you're not going into the red too much, and keeping those wings level, and keeping your nose nice and level on the horizon," the air traffic control worker tells Sylvester.

As the student touches ground, and bumps along, the control tower employee advises, "Power off, power off, power off. Raise the nose gently, and you're down on the ground. You did it, mate. Well done.

"That's amazing. You've done so well. Just brake right there on the runway, and we're going to have all the vehicles come out and meet you on the runway."

Max Sylvester , 29, loves all things related to airplanes.
Max Sylvester/Instagram

An ambulance ferried the pilot, who was from New Zealand, to an area hospital, where he was listed in stable condition, authorities said. It appeared he suffered some type of seizure, officials said.

Flight school owner Chuck McElwee praised both student and air traffic control at a news conference held later. "I'm telling you, you don't get that cooperation very often," he said.

The plane suffered no damage, he said. "Matter of fact, it was a perfect landing," McElwee told reporters, according to the BBC.

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