‘Miracle’ that Florida pilot survived after passing out on plane landed by passenger

Kenneth Allen, 64, released from hospital, doing well

'Miracle' pilot survived after becoming unconscious on plane

PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. – Surgeons who tended to a pilot after he suffered a medical event in flight, forcing his passenger — who had no flight experience — to land the single-engine plane, said it was a “miracle” he survived.

The pilot, 64-year-old Kenneth Allen, of Lake Wales, suffered a tear in his aorta, something that kills about half of all patients before they even make it to the hospital, according to Dr. Nishant Patel, of Palm Beach Gardens Medical Center.

“I mean, the story is a miracle after a miracle, really. You know, for him to be able to survive the event, an acute type-A dissection is really acute, it is hyperacute, it happens suddenly,” Patel said.

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The passenger, 39-year-old Darren Harrison, of Lakeland, told news outlets that he was returning from a fishing trip in the Bahamas on May 10 when Allen complained to him and another passenger of not feeling well.

“He said, ‘I’ve got a headache and I’m fuzzy and I just don’t feel right,” Harrison said. “And I said, ‘What do we need to do?’ and at that point he didn’t respond at all.”

At this point, Harrison said he reached the cockpit and saw the plane was diving, taking the controls and leveling the plane in what he called a common-sense move.

The ensuing conversation between Harrison and air traffic controllers as the plane approached Palm Beach International Airport revealed a solution-oriented, yet stressful exchange.

“I’ve got a serious situation here. My pilot has gone incoherent. I have no idea how to fly the airplane,” Harrison said.

Listen in as a passenger lands a plan in Florida after a pilot became "incoherent."

Harrison was directed toward a runway, descending thousands of feet and touching down safely as he was coached.

Once back on the ground, Harris was taken to the hospital, where surgeons said he suffered a tear in the inner layer of his body’s main artery.

Now, Harris is reportedly doing well and was released from the hospital earlier this week.

Controller Christopher “Chip” Flores at Fort Pierce Tower received the radio call and asked the passenger the location of the plane. The passenger did not know where the aircraft was. With assistance from operational supervisor Justin Boyle, Flores calmly instructed the man to fly straight ahead and to start a gradual descent allowing time for air traffic control to locate the aircraft. Joshua Somers, operations supervisor at Palm Beach air traffic control facility, rushed to provide help in tracking it. The plane was identified as being approximately 20 miles from Boca Raton Airport over the Atlantic Airport.

About the Author:

Brandon, a UCF grad, joined the ClickOrlando team in November 2021. Before joining News 6, Brandon worked at WDBO.