Passenger-turned-pilot Successfully Lands Small Charter Plane

It’s a scenario that no passenger expects to be faced with: Your small charter plane pilot has had a medical emergency and isn’t able to land the plane. Now what?

In recent news, a passenger, with no prior pilot experience, was faced with this exact situation and successfully landed the plane with help from an air traffic controller. Here’s how that situation unfolded.

A Passenger Assumes the Role of Small Charter Plane Pilot

Around lunchtime on May 10, 2022, the pilot of a Cessna 208 told his two passengers that he wasn’t feeling well. Moments later, he slumped against the cockpit controls, putting the aircraft into a nosedive.

As panic surely began to set in, one of the passengers bravely jumped into action. After nudging the pilot aside, he grabbed the controls and pulled the aircraft out of the nosedive. He then reached out to the Fort Pierce Tower at Treasure Coast International Airport in Florida to explain the situation and ask for help.

The controller that answered his call, Christopher “Chip” Flores,  immediately began working towards bringing the aircraft, the two passengers, and the unconscious pilot down to the ground safely. With the help of other air traffic controllers from different towers in the area, the team was able to locate the aircraft over the Atlantic Ocean approximately 20 miles away from the Boca Raton Airport.

In the face of such a rare event, the entire team of air traffic controllers at Palm Beach Tower knew they had to drop everything and support the passenger-turned-pilot as he began his descent into the Palm Beach International Airport. This included clearing the airspace by asking aircraft ready to land to enter a holding pattern instead and clearing the runway while dispatching emergency responders to the scene.

Charter Cessna Caravan

After locating a picture of the small charter plane’s cockpit, certified flight instructor and air traffic controller Robert Morgan began instructing the passenger on how to prepare for landing. Morgan guided the passenger through turns, setting the necessary flap settings, and preparing himself and the aircraft for the landing. He then made sure the passenger had eyes on the tarmac as he continued on the path to the awaiting runway. Morgan also explained how to brake and adjust levers once the passenger’s aircraft touched down.

At 12:27pm, the passenger successfully landed the aircraft in front of awaiting first responders, curious onlookers, and a tower full of cheering controllers.

A Situation that Could Have Been Prevented

Although this particular situation had a wildly successful outcome, a similar situation may not end the same way. If the small charter plane you’ve hired is only being piloted by one pilot, that means there’s no one else to take control of the aircraft in the face of an emergency, like what happened in this situation.

At Stratos Jet Charters, every flight we book on behalf of our clients must be crewed by two pilots, even if the aircraft is certified for single-pilot operation. We do this to provide our clients with an extra layer of safety and security. And of course, if one pilot has a medical emergency while piloting the aircraft, the second pilot can step in and safely take control of the large or small charter plane.

Other benefits of two pilots instead of one include:

  • The workload is split between two pilots, alleviating fatigue and complacency
  • One pilot can actively fly the aircraft while the other can keep up with communications and chart/instrument reading
  • If a problem arises, two heads are certainly better than one

Hiring a Charter Broker that Values Safety Over Cost

If a deal on a small charter plane seems too good to be true, it most likely is. When corners are cut, especially those related to the safety of an aircraft, rates can be lowered. However, that creates more risk in the skies, not just for the passengers aboard the aircraft, but those around them.

One of the most important things you can do when choosing a small charter plane broker is researching their safety accreditations and policies. Make sure the broker you work with has extensive knowledge and experience with the private aviation industry and adheres to every safety requirement. Things to look for include:

ARGUS Certification. If the broker you’re working with is an ARGUS Certified Broker under the Certified Charter Broker Program, you’re on the right path. This independent and unbiased assessment confirms the legitimacy of the broker and the operators they work with.

Air Charter Safety Foundation Member. If the broker you work with is a member, you can find confidence in the fact that they will uphold the highest levels of safety in personal and business aviation.

In-house due diligence programs. The broker you’re working with should have their own in-house safety standard, policies, and procedures that complies with Part 135 of the Federal Aviation Regulations.

Flight-by-flight safety audit reports. Be sure to ask your charter broker for their ARGUS and WYVERN audit reports if you’d like to see the results of both on-site and self-reported audits.

Insurance requirements. In addition to the basic insurance requirements, some providers will go above and beyond and maintain higher-than-average insurance policies. Don’t forget to ask your charter broker what level of insurance they maintain.

Why Hire Stratos Jet Charters?

Since its inception in 2006, Stratos has focused on providing clients with exceptional customer service through education, customer advocacy, and strong personal and industry relationships. We do this by:

  • Focusing on client education and safety
  • Investing in personnel
  • Providing clients with access to the best technology in the industry
  • Committing to aviation excellence
  • Leveraging our strong relationships to the benefit of our clients
  • Maintaining our own above-average insurance coverage
  • Planning ahead for when things don’t go as expected


If you’re ready to soar higher on a large or small charter plane than ever before, reach out to the knowledgeable aviation experts at Stratos Jet Charters.  We’ve been providing the safest charters in the skies for nearly two decades. Call (888) 593-9066 to get started.


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