Pilot Incapacitated, Wife Forced to Fly Small Plane


A Colorado woman who doesn't know how to fly had to take the controls of a single-engine, four-seat Cirrus prop plane after her pilot husband had trouble breathing and lost control of the aircraft on May 17, according to a leaked FAA memo on the incident.

Air traffic authorities lost radio contact with the aircraft as it lost altitude in dense clouds, headed directly for the rugged San Juan peaks of the Rocky Mountains.

The woman finally radioed a controller after a 13-minute silence, saying, "Hang on, hang on, I'm trying to get him to put on auto-autopilot-I don't know how to do this," according to a memo recounting the events obtained by CBS Denver.

In a deadly serious scene out of the movie "Airplane!", a Great Lakes Airlines pilot cruising nearby then came on the radio to coach the woman on the fly (pun intended).

Despite the instructions, the woman couldn't wrestle the plane under her control--and prepared to cut the engine and deploy a parachute built into the aircraft, designed as a last-ditch safety measure.

But before she had the chance to pull the rip cord, her husband recovered and took back the controls, about 40 tense minutes after the ordeal began.

He came to just in time, the woman said, "I am not a pilot. I could not have landed."

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