Last week, we heard about a passenger with zero flying experience safely landing a Cessna after the pilot became incapacitated due to a medical emergency. That passenger, Darren Harrison, recounted his experience to Today host Savannah Guthrie, and one thing comes through loud and clear: This guy is an absolute badass.
Harrison, 39, was flying home from a fishing trip in the Bahamas on the Cessna 208 Caravan. There were three people in total on the small, single-engine plane: Harrison, the pilot, and the pilot’s friend. As the plane drew close to Florida, the pilot suffered a medical emergency and became unresponsive.
“I knew it was a life-or-death situation,” Harrison told Guthrie in the interview, published to YouTube this morning. “You do what you have to do to control the situation, or you’re gonna die. And that’s what I did.”
The flight started off normal. Harrison even took a cheeky photo not long after takeoff, his bare feet resting on the seat in front of him, the pilot and the other passenger in the front seats, a beautiful cloud-dappled blue sky through the windows.
Then it all unraveled. The pilot started showing signs of severe discomfort. “He said, I’ve got a headache, and I’m fuzzy, and I just don’t feel right,” Harrison told Guthrie. After that, the pilot was completely unresponsive.
The plane was already starting to lose altitude. Harrison reached around the pilot’s shoulders, pulled back — gently — on the stick, and leveled the plane.
“How did you know how to do that,” Guthrie asks.
“Just common sense, I guess,” Harrison says. “I knew if I went up and yanked, the airplane would stall.”
Harrison managed to get the pilot out of his seat, but the pilot’s headset wires frayed and broke. Thankfully, the front-seat passenger’s headset was still working.
The rest of the story is an edge-of-your-seat adventure. The Today interview is 10 minutes long, and you’re gonna want to watch the whole thing (below). As you now know, Harrison safely landed the plane at Palm Beach International Airport. The pilot went to the hospital, and is expected to make a full recovery.
One line from Harrison’s interview stuck out with me. He tells Guthrie, “I slowly feathered the brakes as I’m going down the runway, and surprisingly I felt so comfortable with it, I radioed [...] ‘do you guys want me to turn off the runway to clear it out?’”
Darren Harrison sounds like a car guy. One with ice-water in his veins, and a level head when the situation goes terrifying. We salute him.