POLK COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) — The Lakeland man who landed a plane in 2022 after the pilot suffered a medical emergency reunited with the pilot on the TODAY Show Friday morning.
The pilot sat down with his surgeon, Dr. Patel, to recount the scary moments after he showed stroke-like symptoms and a torn aorta, a main artery.
The passenger-turned-pilot, Darren Harrison, was on a CESSNA 208 plane carrying three people that left the Bahamas on a Tuesday.
But during the flight, the pilot, Kenneth Allen, became “incapacitated” and Harrison had to take over.
“I’ve got a serious situation here. My pilot has gone incoherent. I have no idea how to fly the airplane,” Harrison said.
With the Florida coastline just in sight, Robert Morgan, an air traffic controller was able to instruct Harrison to keep the wings level and continue up the coast to Boca Raton, so he could find the plane.
With only a picture of the cockpit, Morgan guided Harrison to land safely at Palm Beach International Airport.
“The way he remained calm is why he’s alive today,” said Nathan Romero, a flight instructor who works at Legends Airways in Lakeland. “A lot of us, not just pilots, but a lot of us in general as people, can learn from that – that remaining calm during a situation, as scary as what he just experienced, is extremely important.”
After a successful landing, Harrison met Morgan and gave him a hug. He then said he couldn’t wait to go hug his then-pregnant wife.
“It was a miracle in it itself,” Harrison said regarding how the events all worked out and came together.
“We are connected for life,” Kenneth said referencing Harrison and Dr. Patel.
Now, Harrison and his wife still live in Lakeland with their now 14-month-old daughter. The pilot is even flying Harrison and his family to Charleston next week for lunch. “Where’s my invite?,” TODAY’s Savannah Guthrie joked.
Besides crying, the pilot said he was apologizing because of the guilt he felt endangering Harrison’s and the other passengers’ lives.