Australia: First-time pilot lands plane after teacher falls ill

A trainee pilot in Australia had to make an emergency landing during his first flight after his instructor fell ill.

Max Sylvester had turned up for his first time in the cockpit of the single-engined Cessna plane, with his wife and three children looking on.

But his instructor, Robert Mollard, collapsed during the flight, leaving Mr Sylvester with no option but to land the two-seater plane himself.

The trainee called air traffic control in Western Australia, who guided him back down on to the ground.

“Do you know how to operate the aeroplane?” the controller asks in recorded audio.

“This is my first lesson,” Mr Sylvester replies.

Mr Sylvester took nearly an hour to land the plane safely at Perth’s Jandakot airport, with those at the control tower keeping him calm right the way through:

“You’re doing a really great job. I know this is really stressful. But you’re going to do an amazing job and we’re going to help you get down to the ground,” the controller can be heard saying.

The instructor, Robert Mollard, from the Air Australia International Flying School, was taken to hospital in a serious but stable condition.

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Chuck McElwee, who owns the flying school, said it was the first time something like this had happened, praising the strength of Mr Sylvester’s wife.

“The only thing that we worried about was after…he was on an adrenaline high,” he said.

“We told his wife not to let him drive…until he had calmed down.”

Despite the unusual start, Mr Sylvester still achieved his first flying solo certificate.

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