Passenger lands plane in Florida after pilot dies
TAMPA - Doug White and his family had just enjoyed a smooth takeoff and were ascending through the clouds when the pilot guiding their twin-engine plane tilted his head back and made a guttural sound.
The retired jet pilot, Joe Cabuk, was unconscious.
And though White had his pilot's license, he had never flown a plane as large as this.
"I need help. I need a King Air pilot to talk to. We're in trouble," he radioed.
Then he turned to his wife and two daughters, ages 16 and 18: "You all start praying hard." Behind him, his wife trembled.
Sixteen-year-old Bailey cried. Eighteen-year-old Maggie vomited.
White, 56, landed the plane on his own about 30 minutes later, coaxed through the harrowing ordeal by air traffic controllers who described exactly how to bring the aircraft to safety.
The pilot died.
White had logged about 150 hours recently flying a single-engine Cessna 172 but had no experience flying the faster, larger King Air.
He declared an emergency to air traffic controllers - White already knew how to use the radio.
Flying the Cessna, White said he's never gone higher than 7,000 feet.
White tried to stay calm and listen to the air traffic controllers as they relayed instructions.
White navigated the plane and safely landed shortly after 2 p.m. in Fort Myers.