Monday Sep 02, 2019
SYDNEY: An Australian man venturing into the skies for a first flying lesson has been forced to make an "amazing" solo landing after his instructor blacked out mid-flight.
Max Sylvester's wife and three kids watched from the ground as air traffic control talked him through safely landing the Cessna two-seater at Perth's Jandakot airport on Saturday.
The 30-something had issued a panicked mayday call from an altitude of 1,900 metres (6,200 feet), after his instructor slumped onto his shoulder and could not be woken.
"Do you know how to operate the aeroplane," the air traffic controller in Perth asked urgently, according to a recording of their exchange.
"This is my first lesson," Sylvester responded, adding that he had never landed an aircraft before.
Realising the enormity of the task at hand, the tower responded: "The first thing that we are going to do is make sure that the wings stay level."
He was instructed to maintain altitude and to make a pass above the runway to get a sense of the terrain and become more at ease.
"You're doing a really great job," the operator reassures the trainee as someone more familiar with the aircraft was rushed to the tower.
"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, OK?"
Some twenty minutes later, the plane made a heart-stoppingly bumpy landing.
"You did it mate!" exclaimed the air traffic controller. "Well done. That's amazing!"
The instructor was taken to hospital in a stable condition and Sylvester received his first solo flight certificate from the instructor's employer, Air Australia International.
"This could have gone way, way bad," Air Australia International owner Chuck McElwee said, according to public broadcaster ABC.
"But everything worked out right, and it worked right, mostly because of the cooperation of the tower."