Darren Harrison was barefoot and resting in the back of a single-engine plane as he drove home to see his wife, who was seven months pregnant when his pilot fell ill in the air – setting in motion a heroic series of events that could have been straight from the Hollywood blockbuster.

The 38-year-old Florida resident knew he would land the plane in which the pilot, a friend of the pilot and himself, knew he would have to land.

“You do what you have to do to control the situation, otherwise you will die,” Mr Harrison told NBC. Today in an exclusive interview less than a week after the flight from the Bahamas. “And that’s what I did.”

It all started when the pilot moved to his seat, complaining of headaches and vagueness, Mr Harrison said, which brought to life one of his personal worst fears.

“My nightmare has always been when I fly like this: what will happen if something happens to my health with the pilot? What will happen? ” he said Todayadding that he had considered such a possibility “many times”.

When a horrible situation actually did it so happened that the pilot stopped responding within seconds – and Mr. Harrison took action.

“I was moving forward, and by the time I moved forward to the front of the plane, I realized we were now going to dive very fast,” Mr Harrison said Monday. “All I saw when I approached the front was water from the right window – and I knew it was fast.”

He said the plane was in the kidney.

A small plane landed in Palm Beach on Tuesday

(Jeff Chandler / WPBF-TV / Twitter)

“At that moment, I knew that if I did not react, we would die.”

Reaching out to the unresponsive pilot, Mr. Harrison “grabbed the controls of the plane and slowly began to pull the stick and turn,” he said, referring to “common sense” as what led to his decisions.

He had no flight experience; Mr. Harrison works on the floor.

“I knew that if I lifted and jerked that the plane would stop, and I also knew that at the speed we were going, we were probably going too fast, and that would tear the wings off the plane,” he said. Today.

Maneuvering into the pilot’s seat, he tried to put on a suit worn by an unconscious man – just to make another horrific discovery. According to him, the wires were rubbed and the plugs on the end of the headphones disappeared.

“So I immediately turn to the guy next to me and say, ‘I’m going to need your headset because I need to talk to someone.’

This one turned out to be air traffic controller Robert Morgan, who, fortunately, also works part-time as a flight instructor.

“All my GPS is off; I have no idea where I am, “Mr Harrison said Monday, adding that the air traffic controller asked him,” Well, what do you see? “

“I see Florida, and I see a small airport – and they said, ‘Can you go down 5,000 feet and support?’ And I said, “I can try … I’m still trying to figure it out.”

When he identified the state, Mr Harrison said: “At that second I knew I was going to land there.

“I don’t know what will happen as a result, I don’t know how it will happen, but I will have to land this plane because there is no other result.”

Air Traffic Controller Robert Morgan poses with a passenger who helped land a Cessna Grand Caravan


Under Mr. Morgan’s direction on the ground Mr. Harrison began descending to Palm Beach International Airport.

“He kept telling me,‘ The runway will get bigger as you get closer to it; just focus on that and keep going down, “Mr. Harrison said in an interview Monday.” And I remember walking up to 200 feet and he said, ‘Hey, you’re going to have to slow down a little bit more; you’re still you come pretty fast.

“And at that point I told another guy, I said,‘ Hey, take the choke and throw it on the floor. Just throw it on the floor as much as possible. ”

Surprisingly, while observing air traffic controllers, the inexperienced first pilot safely landed on the PBI runway, “pressed the brakes” and even offered to park the plane while remaining incredibly calm.

“I said,‘ Thank you for everything, ’and I threw the headset on the dashboard and said the biggest prayer I’ve ever said in my life,” Mr Harrison told Today. “That’s when all the emotions arose.”

Prayer, he said, was grateful “for the safety and everything that happened, but the last part of the prayer and the strongest part was for the guy behind because I knew it wasn’t a very good situation”.

The pilot was taken to hospital and initially did not expect to survive, Mr Harrison said, but, in another miraculous case, he should be sent home quickly from hospital, the passenger said Today.

Air Traffic Controller Robert Morgan explains how he conducted an airplane passenger with no experience of flying through an emergency landing


Mr. Harrison’s first call was to his wife, Britney, who panicked when she saw his name on the caller’s ID, realizing he must still be in the air, and worried that something bad had happened. She was still grieving the death last year of her brother-in-law, who passed away when her sister was six months pregnant.

“Honestly, I took a deep breath and prepared for the fact that it wouldn’t be him on that line,” she said.

Instead, her husband was alive and well with an incredible story.

In his mind, while in the air, Mr. Harrison said he “knows I won’t die, and it never occurred to me to call and say goodbye to my wife.”

He said, “One of the first things that came to my mind when I was climbing to the front and this plane was at its peak, I was just looking, saying, ‘I can’t die today.’ I have Britney [who’s] pregnant; I have a baby on the way. Not a day. Today is not my day. “

Along with his common sense, Mr. Harrison gives most of the credit to a higher power.

“Everyone asked me,‘ How did the plane do what it did? How did it stay together? How did you pull it off? ” Mr Harrison told Today. “The hand of God was on this plane. This is the only thing I can attribute to it, there is no other explanation for it. ”

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