Pilot Has 'Miraculous' Recovery After Health Emergency Led to Passenger Landing Plane: 'Truly Amazing'

·3 min read
Cessna 208B
Cessna 208B

Aviation-images.com/Universal Images Group via Getty Cessna 208

The pilot who became unconscious during a flight in Florida last week, leading to a miraculous landing from a passenger with no flying experience, has been released from the hospital after undergoing surgery for a tear in his aorta, Today reported.

Dr. Nishant Patel — a cardiothoracic surgeon who treated the pilot, who has not been publicly identified — told Today the man had experienced an aortic dissection.

The life-threatening condition occurs when "a tear occurs in the inner layer of the body's main artery," according to the Mayo Clinic.

"Fifty percent of patients won't make it to the hospital, and then 50% of patients that do make it to the hospital will pass away within 24 hours without prompt diagnosis and treatment," Patel said of the pilot's odds of survival during Tuesday's interview.

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Patel, of the Palm Beach Gardens Medical Center, said doctors at another facility initially believed the pilot may have suffered a stroke during the flight before they found the tear. Upon the discovery, he was transported to Patel's hospital for emergency surgery.

"Everything about this guy is just truly, truly amazing. He definitely understands everything that happened, and how severe the situation was on so many different levels before the hospital, in the operating room, and during recovery," said Patel, who called the pilot's recovery "really quite miraculous."

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The passenger who safely landed the single-engine Cessna 208 aircraft previously shared that he was on his way back from a fishing trip in the Bahamas when the situation unfolded on May 10.

"It was a life or death situation," Darren Harrison, 39, said while speaking to Today's Savannah Guthrie on Monday. "Either you do what you have to do to control the situation or you're going to die and that's what I did."

According to Harrison, at one point during the flight, the pilot told him and the other passenger — a friend of the pilot's — that he "didn't feel right."

After the aviator quickly became unresponsive, Harrison reached over the pilot's body to grab the controls and steady the aircraft, which had gone into a nosedive. He was then able to get assistance from an air traffic controller and safely land at the Palm Beach International Airport.

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Once back on the ground, Harrison said "the biggest prayer I've ever said in my life," he explained on Today. Chief among his thoughts? The pilot.

"I knew it was not a good situation," he told Guthrie during Monday's interview.

According to the passenger, the pilot was not expected to live when he was initially hospitalized.

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In an interview with the Federal Aviation Administration, Robert Morgan — the air traffic controller who helped Harrison land safely — shared that despite the heightened nature of the experience, it was ultimately business as usual.

"At the end of the day, I feel like I was just doing my job," Morgan said. "But it was just on a higher level than you ever thought you had to do it."