Trainee pilot lands plane after teacher blacks out

Under carriage view of a Cessna 172 Skyhawk aircraft coming in to landImage copyright
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The student safely landed the Cessna light plane (not pictured) at a Perth airport

A student pilot in Australia safely landed a light aircraft during a flying lesson, after his instructor passed out at the controls.

Western Australian man Max Sylvester made a distress call to air traffic control about an hour into his flight on Saturday when his teacher collapsed beside him.

Operators at an airport in Perth helped him guide the aircraft to the ground.

Mr Sylvester was later praised for his quick response and composure.

In his emergency call, a recording of which was later made public, he describes his teacher’s condition before taking instructions on flying the plane.

“I’m trying to keep him up but he keeps falling down,” he tells the operator.

When asked if he knows how to operate the Cessna aircraft, he replies: “This is my first lesson.”

Mr Sylvester had taken two flying lessons prior to the flight but it was his first encounter with the aircraft, and he had never tried a landing before.

‘This is my first lesson’: Transcript of flight recording

Pilot: Emergency, Emergency, Emergency. This is Tango, Foxtrot, Romeo, can you hear me?

Air Traffic Control (ATC): Tango, Foxtrot, Romeo, I can hear you. Do you know how to operate the aeroplane?

Pilot: Very very light. This is my first lesson.

ATC: Your instructor at the moment…. are they unconscious?

Pilot: He’s leaning over my shoulder. I’m trying to keep him upright. He keeps falling down.

ATC: Tango, Foxtrot, Romeo. Have you landed any aircraft before by yourself or with someone else at the controls with you?

Pilot: No I haven’t […]

ATC: Power off, power off, power off. Raise the nose gently, and you’re down on the ground. You did it mate. Well done. That’s amazing, you’ve done so well. Just break right there on the runway and we’re going to have all of the vehicles come out and meet you on the runway.

After circling the Jandakot Airport in Perth for nearly an hour and practicing approaches, he touched down safely on the runway at the airport where his family and emergency crew were waiting.

The instructor was taken to hospital in a stable condition.

In a news conference, Mr Sylvester said: “If I hadn’t studied, I wouldn’t be here. That’s a fact.”

“There is no doubt in the world that I won’t be flying. You have to do that because you have to show your kids that having issues like this, you have to power through them.”

Chuck McElwee, the flight school’s owner said: “There was no damage at all to the plane. Matter of fact, it was a perfect landing.”

He praised both the student pilot and the tower saying: “I’m telling you, you don’t get that cooperation very often.”

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