Trainee pilot, Max Sylvester, successfully made an emergency landing at Perth's Jandakot Airport on August 31 after his instructor fell unconscious during the mid-flight training period. The trainee believed to be in his 30's was on his debut learning session in a two-seater Cessna aircraft. He was accompanied by his wife and three children who came to watch his first lesson. Sylvester, realizing that he was alone and in sole control the small aircraft, immediately called up the Air Traffic Control (ATC) just over an hour later and explained the entire situation and the difficulties he faced. Sylvester explained to the ATC that the instructor kept falling on his shoulder continuously after he tried to wake him up. The air traffic operator asked the trainee to remain calm and guided him throughout as he prepared for an emergency landing.
The operator at the Air Traffic Control asked the pilot, Mr Sylvester, whether he knew how to control the aircraft. The pilot told the ATC operator that it was his first session. The ATC operator told the pilot that he was doing an excellent job and also asked the pilot to remain calm through the hectic process. The ATC operator went on to assure the pilot that they would help him get down to the ground. The controller explained how to reduce the aircraft's speed and then discussed the landing. The operator also asked whether the trainee pilot had ever landed an aircraft; to which the pilot replied that he didn't know. Struggling with his instructor still unconscious, Mr. Slyvester told the air traffic control that he had repeatedly tried to lift the man's head up but there wasn't any response. The controller kept the pilot encouraged and asked him to focus on the landing and supported him by saying that he was doing well. The pilot joked that his flight instructor called him the best student he'd had.
Ultimately, Mr Slyvester landed the aircraft safely after hovering in the sky for almost an hour.The New Zealand born flight instructor, Robert Mollard, is in a stable condition in the hospital.
The owner and operator of Air Australia International, Chuck McElwee, who hires the pilot said that he has never witnessed any incidents like this in his 28 years of experience. "This could have gone way, way bad," he said.
He said the emergency landing was successful due to the dedication of the pilot and the Air Traffic Controllers' teamwork. Mr. McElwee also praised the pilot's wife to keep up the patience all the way along the line. He was worried because the pilot was on his adrenaline high after the incident and suggested Slyvester's wife not to let him drive until he calmed down.
Mr. Sylvester received his first flying solo certificate, although Mr. McElwee admitted it was probably not the maiden solo flight he had been anticipating.
(With inputs from MSN)