UK & World News
Mid-Air Emergency: Hero Pilot Fights Passenger
A young pilot is being described as a hero for landing a light aircraft in a field after fighting off a passenger who tried to cut the plane's engine and grab the controls.
The mid-air drama happened in the skies over New South Wales, Australia, during a flight in a twin-engine aircraft.
It is alleged that the 82-year-old passenger on the charter flight flicked a switch in the cockpit to shut down the engine and then seized the control column.
The quick-thinking 23-year-old pilot issued a Mayday call and wrestled the man back into his seat. He restrained him and then managed to land the plane safely.
The passenger had booked the flight with Australia By Air from Sydney to Cowra, with the plane departing Bankstown Airport about 2pm on Monday.
The man, who apparently did not know the pilot, said he had booked the flight because he needed to go to the rural town to sign some papers, reported the ABC.
He was sitting next to the pilot in the four-seater aircraft.
Australia By Air managing director David Trevelyan praised the pilot saying he had issued an emergency 'Pan-Pan' announcement before landing safely.
A pan call is when the pilot is in trouble but not in a life-threatening situation.
"I would like to praise the actions of the pilot. He showed fantastic skill," Mr Trevelyan said.
"He did an excellent job in an amazingly difficult scenario ... and under tremendous pressure."
It was the first time Australia By Air had conducted a flight for the elderly man.
"Nothing about the guy made us suspicious," Mr Trevelyan told Sky News. "He walked in and said he wanted to go to Cowra to sign some papers, that would take 15 minutes and then he'd fly back. It was a very normal request for us."
With the engine cut, the pilot managed to glide the plane into the field.
Emergency services arrived at the field where the plane landed and immediately attended the two men.
The pilot's efforts left the elderly man with head and facial injuries.
The passenger was taken to Sydney's Westmead Hospital while the pilot was taken to Oberon Hospital suffering from shock and was released on Monday night.
Police will get the elderly man's version of events once he is fit enough to be questioned.
It is understood the pilot has been fully qualified for only two years.