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Passenger Lands Plane Safely in England After Pilot Collapses

Image: Passenger Lands Plane Safely in England After Pilot Collapses Passenger John Wildey at Sandtoft Airfield near Humberside Airport in northeast England, Oct. 9, 2013.

By Alexandra Ward   |   Wednesday, 09 Oct 2013 12:15 PM

An inexperienced passenger landed a plane in eastern England Tuesday night by following step-by-step directions from a couple of flying instructors over the radio after the pilot collapsed and died at the controls.

The pilot and a passenger identified as John Wildey, 77, were the only two aboard the small Cessna plane en route to Humberside Airport in North Lincolnshire when the pilot suddenly passed out.

What happened next is nothing short of amazing.

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The pilot was able to issue a distress call before collapsing, so air traffic controllers called in two flight instructors to guide Wildey through landing the plane, the BBC reported.

With the help of the instructors, Wildey first circled the darkened runway three times to get an idea of its layout before descending, according to CNN.

"He made quite a good landing, actually. He didn't know the layout of the airplane, he didn't have lights on so he was absolutely flying blind as well," Roy Murray, one of the instructors who helped with the landing, told the BBC. "I think he'd flown once before as a passenger but never flown an airplane before."

Wildey is now being praised as a hero.

"For somebody who is not a pilot but has been around airfields and been a passenger on several occasions to take control is nothing short of phenomenal," Richard Tomlinson, a friend of the pilot, told BBC Radio. "The man is nothing short of a hero."

Murray said without his guidance, the incident could have resulted in two deaths instead of one.

"It's a fantastic feeling, knowing I have achieved something and probably saved somebody's life," he said. "I think without any sort of talk down he would have just gone into the ground and that would have been the end of it."

It's not clear what caused the pilot's sudden death.

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