'I'm Not A Hero', Says Plane Landing Man

Gerard Tubb, North of England Correspondent
'I'm Not A Hero', Says Plane Landing Man

A plane passenger forced to make an emergency landing after the pilot had a suspected heart attack says the people who talked him down are the heroes of the story.

Plane fanatic John Wildey, 77, landed the four-seater Cessna at Humberside Airport in the dark without being able to see the instruments or the tarmac.

"They did all the work. I just held the controls and did what they told me," Mr Wildey told Sky News.

The pensioner issued a mayday call on Tuesday evening when the pilot, a friend of his in this 70s, became unconscious as they flew back to Sandtoft airfield, near Doncaster, from a day out in Skegness.

An RAF Sea King helicopter was scrambled to intercept the flight as Mr Wildey headed for the landmark Humber Bridge.

The helicopter crew tried to help him land at Humberside Airport before it got dark, but Mr Wildey, a great grandfather, says a combination of panic and cross winds got the better of him.

With ambulances and fire crews standing by on the runway, air traffic controllers called in flying instructor Roy Murray who talked Mr Wildey down, despite hardly being able to see the plane.

Mr Wildey said he felt reassured but "still a bit uptight" when the instructor came on the radio.

He explained: "At this time it was starting to get dusk so I followed (the helicopter) down but I could not see the runway, so we aborted that ... I came back in under their instruction and I just didn't get it right, so I had to go back up again."

He said he "stalled" the plane during one of his attempts to come in.

"That really got my tummy going," he said.

"It seemed to drop out the sky. I don't know what I did but I managed to get her straight and level and put the power on."

Mr Wildey told Sky News he could not see the instruments because he could not find the switch to illuminate them.

Humberside Airport brightened the runway lights to help guide the 77-year-old in.

He finally managed to land the plane after several attempts: "We did a low pass, and they said 'keep going, slower, slower'," said Mr Wildey.

"They got me down and I bounced, and unfortunately it's a bit heavy and I didn't pull it back far enough, so I did almost a three wheel landing - but on the nose wheel first.

"It was just a few bounces and we sort of went off the runway because I couldn't reach the brakes at first ... Then the boys in blue, and yellow and white were there."

The plane landed safely, with little or no damage, but the pilot was pronounced dead and his family have asked the police not to release his name.

Mr Wildey, who served in the RAF and first travelled in a plane in the Air Training Corps aged 14, says the drama has not put him off flying.

He says he'll be back in the air as soon as he can find someone willing to give him a lift.

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