I wanted to keep going, to get down; Grandad tells how he landed plane as pilot died.
THE hero passenger who managed to land a plane after the pilot collapsed and died at the controls shrugged off his amazing feat of cool courage yesterday.
Modest John Wildey, 77, who had never flown an aircraft before, played down his role in the drama at 1,500ft and insisted: "I was just the man holding the stick."
The shaken father of three endured 65 minutes of hell as he was talked down after being forced to take control of the four-seater Cessna 172 when his pilot friend fell fatally ill.
John immediately grabbed the radio and shouted "Mayday, Mayday," as he grappled to manoeuvre the light aircraft in the dark.
Despite being a former RAF office clerk, John had no pilot experience and was unable to see the aircraft's switches as he was left flying blind. He recalled: "My mouth was so dry I would have given a million pounds for a drink of water at the time."
Eventually he had to be guided to Humberside Airport's runway by an RAF Sea King rescue helicopter which had been scrambled to help after he got lost in the dark.
John - nicknamed "Shiney" during his 24 years in the RAF - had started heading for the coast and needed to be turned around.
He circled the airfield three times as two flying instructors, who had been called into the control tower, led him through the landing procedure.
Any slip could have meant a potentially devastating crash - with the plane possibly coming down on nearby houses. It took four nervy attempts before John finally landed with a "bump, bump, bump". A tyre blew and sparks sprayed across the tarmac.
CONTROLLED "It was a right bump and more of a controlled crash really," he said. John was last night mourning the loss of his "brilliant" pal. He said: "I feel sorry for his wife and relatives - they're the ones who have really suffered."
The pair had been returning from a day-trip to Skegness for a country and western concert when the pilot complained of feeling sick.
John said: "He started breathing heavily. I asked if he was OK and he said, 'No I feel a bit grotty'. It was just after that he fainted or as I know now he died. I suddenly found myself 1,500ft up in the air with nowhere to go.
"It was a totally dark cabin, I couldn't see any of the instruments. I've never landed a plane before or even had a lesson. It was a bit of panic. I just wanted to keep going, to get down.
"Luckily we had plenty of fuel on board." John soon found himself speaking to Flight Instructor Roy Murray and Air Traffic Control Manager Debbie Zost.
"I told them I thought I was heading for Sandtoft," he said. "They were telling me what to do but because I didn't have any lights on I could barely see the sticks which made it even more difficult. As I came in to land I had plenty of doubts because I didn't know what was going to happen.
"They told me to bring her down gently and take the throttle back. It seemed to be all right but then they said I was going too low, so I had to power up again. I was just trying to nose it down.
"Then we touched and it was a right bump - one, two or three bumps. I could see the runway lights rushing towards me and I thought, 'I ain't going to do it'." John said he was unable to reach the brakes at first - and the plane slewed off the runway before coming to a juddering halt.
He's a very, very lucky man, but also a very competent one. He didn't panic at all ROY MURRAY FLIGHT INSTRUCTOR
MODEST HERO John after drama yesterday
EMERGENCY John landed plane safely
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|Publication:||The Mirror (London, England)|
|Date:||Oct 10, 2013|
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