How a Grandad Landed a Plane with No Flying Experience

Would you believe it if we told you a grandfather with no prior flying experience landed a light aircraft after the pilot collapsed mid-flight? It sounds like a plot from a movie. But this happened. John Wildey was 77 when he agreed to accompany his friend to a light cruise on a personally owned aircraft. However, John’s friend lost his conscience mid-flight.

John Wildey poses with the Cessna plane.
Source: BBC

Without any prior flying experience, John Wildey had to fly the plane for 70 minutes. John had to pilot the airplane for 70 straight minutes before landing at the nearest airport. John did not take long before realizing he had to step up, or else he and his friend will die due to the plane crash.

What Happened To John’s Friend?

After taking off from the Sandtoft Airfield, the two friends had taken lunch at a nearby airport. Everything was going smoothly. The duo was supposed to return home at 7 PM local time that same day. However, right around 6:15 PM, the pilot started to experience health issues.

John Wildey talks to the BBC.
Source: BBC

Due to personal safety, the pilot’s name, a friend of John Widley, has not been revealed. John tried his best to keep his friend from falling ill. He tried to communicate with him, but it did not work. It then became a matter of life and death.

It Was a Nice and Normal Day

John Wildey is recently retired. Before his retirement, he had spent 24 years serving the RAF. He had never had any experience flying an airplane during his long tenure. John would often accompany his friend to light flying sprees.

John Wildey stands in front of a the Cessna Skyhawk.
Source: YouTube

The friends decided to meet at Sandtoft Airfield on a sunny Tuesday morning, located right between the intersection of Scunthorpe and Doncaster. The flying was going smoothly. They had traveled from Cessna 172 Skyhawk to Skegness. (Near the Lincolnshire coast). They even stopped at a small airfield for lunch. It seemed like the perfect day.

John Wildey Received Instructions from Flight Control

It is implausible that someone with no prior flying experience can successfully land an aircraft on their first attempt. Then how did John Wildey succeed in landing the plane after his pilot friend lost conscience?

Roy Murray explains the controls from inside the cockpit.
Source: Ross Parry

John had been on a dozen flying cruises with this friend before, so he had a little bit of knowledge on what should be done. In case of an emergency, he could resort to seeking help from flight control. Soon after John’s friend lost his conscience, he tried to establish a connection to the nearest air control, and luckily, he succeeded.

He Listened To Their Instructions

After John had described the entire situation, flight control advised him to ignore all of the intricate controllers on the plane and focus on the joystick. The flight controller quickly dispatched an RAF helicopter. The helicopter guided the aircraft to safety.

The controls inside the cockpit.
Source: Imgur

But landing the plane was still a difficult task. Using the joystick to keep the nose of the aircraft up is easy. But landing a plane requires precise measurements. Mr. John had three abortive attempts before he succeeded in landing the plane. He eventually prevailed thanks to immense courage and skill.