A teenager has described how he took the controls of a light plane for more than half an hour after the pilot passed out during a joy flight over rural Australia.
Troy Jenkins, 19, said the single-engine Cessna 150 was only 10 minutes into a flight from the New South Wales state farming town of Forbes yesterday afternoon when the pilot Derek Neville, 61, lost consciousness.
Jenkins said he had taken the controls before while flying with Neville, a family friend. Jenkins flew circles around Forbes airport at a steady altitude of 2,000 feet for around 45 minutes before the pilot came to.
“Keeping it up wasn’t a problem, it was the landing part I wasn’t sure of,” Jenkins said. “I was pretty scared.”
“I thought I had to save myself and him. It was quite an experience,” he added.
Jenkins said he had landed a plane only once before and that was with Neville’s supervision. Jenkins was relieved that the pilot had regained consciousness moments before they were to land.
“He sort of poked me in the right direction and we both brought it down,” Jenkins said. They landed safely.
Jenkins was also grateful for the help of pilot Paul Reynolds, who heard Jenkins’ radio calls for help and came to the rescue. Reynolds flew alongside the Cessna and provided advice over the radio.
“I just heard on the radio someone calling: ’Help, help,”’ Reynolds told Nine Network television.
“What I got him to do was essentially just maintain that altitude and fly around the airfield,” he added.
After the landing, Neville was flown to Orange Base Hospital, where he remained today.
His wife Merle said he had undergone heart and brain scans, but doctors had yet to diagnose the problem.
“We’ve had a good outcome,” she said, referring to the successful landing.
Police Detective Sergeant Steve Howard said the air emergency could have resulted in tragedy if the pilot had not regained consciousness when he did.
“I do believe the passenger had some prior experience in the plane and had landed the plane with some assistance in the past, but we were just very fortunate that the pilot did come to,” Howard told Australian Broadcasting Corp.
Air safety investigators plan to interview both the pilot and passenger on Tuesday, Australian Transport Safety Bureau spokesman Stuart Godley said.