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Originally published October 9, 2013 at 5:46 AM | Page modified October 9, 2013 at 10:20 AM

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Passenger lands small plane after pilot falls ill

A passenger with no flying experience safely landed a small airplane at a British airport after the pilot became incapacitated, officials said Wednesday.

The Associated Press

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Landing a aircraft is not intuitive. It's a good thing the instructors were there... MORE
Kudos to the passenger for keeping a cool head. How many people would panic and fail? MORE
Great job to the passenger and to the instructors who talked him down! As a private ... MORE

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LONDON —

A passenger with no flying experience safely landed a small airplane at a British airport after the pilot became incapacitated, officials said Wednesday.

The pilot, the only other person aboard the aircraft, died soon after the plane came to a stop. The cause of death was not immediately known.

The plane issued a mayday call as it returned to the Sandtoft airfield in northeast England on Tuesday evening.

Officials at Humberside Airport, near the airfield, put emergency plans into place and successfully helped the passenger land the plane.

"The passenger flew over the airport a couple of times and then was talked down by two flight instructors, and the emergency services were waiting for them when he landed safely," the airport said in a statement.

The aircraft landed with a few bumps, with some witnesses saying sparks came off the front of it.

The passenger, John Wildey, said of the experience: "I suppose it was a controlled crash, really."

He added that he could not reach the brakes at first and thought he would not make it, but eventually managed to stop the plane.

Rob Murray, one of the flight instructors, said he was glad to have helped and that Wildey did a "remarkable job," given he had never flown a plane before.

"It's a fantastic feeling, knowing I have achieved something and probably saved somebody's life," Murray said.

Wildey was unhurt. Police said an inquest will be carried out to establish what caused the pilot's death.

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