If the pilot of your plane has a heart attack mid-air, could you land the plane? With the help of some calm, fast-thinking air traffic controllers, Doug White of Archibald, La., was able to land the plane — saving both his own life and the life of his family.
You probably didn’t hear about this story–from more than a year ago–or the brief media mentions of the Archie League Medal of Safety Award that the National Air Traffic Controllers Association gave Brian Norton and Lisa Grimm for talking Mr. White through a harrowing situation on Easter Sunday 2009. But when I come across stories of courage like this, I think it’s important to highlight them, no matter when they happened.
Mr. White knew how to fly a smaller, less complex type of aircraft, so that helped, but in the audio tapes of the event, you can hear the fear in his voice.
According to CBS News, the controllers on the ground stayed calm, instructing
GRIMM: “We’re going to have you hand-fly the plane…Hold the yoke level and disengage the autopilot.”
WHITE: “Alright, I disengaged it. I’m flying the airplane by hand… You find me the longest, widest runway you can, ma’am.”
After a pause, the dialogue continued
GRIMM: “We’re gonna bring you around to Fort Myers. They’ve got the longer runway … You’re gonna do fine.”
WHITE: “I’m in the good Lord’s hands flying this.”
Courage under pressure. That’s one well-deserved award.