Friday, November 07, 2008

Blinded pilot lands safely

A pilot who suddenly went blind while flying his plane at 15,000ft (4,572m) was guided in to land by an RAF plane. A plane was scrambled from the RAF base at Linton-on-Ouse in North Yorkshire to help stricken pilot Jim O'Neill, 65.

He was flying a two-seater Cessna aircraft from Prestwick airport in Scotland to Colchester, Essex, when he suffered a stroke and lost his sight. Wing Cdr Paul Gerrard, chief flying instructor, flew his Tucano T1 about 50m next to the Cessna to bring Mr O'Neill safely down.

Mr Hynd said: "He used his voice to guide him [Mr O'Neill] down by telling him to turn left and right, to lower the plane and to do his pre-landing checks. At very short range he still couldn't see the runway and it was only at the last minute that he could. He landed about halfway down and came to a halt just at the end.

"The RAF routinely practises shepherding but we are usually shepherding lost aircraft, we are not used to shepherding blind pilots, which is what makes this amazing. It was a fantastic team effort from all those involved and we're proud that we could get him to the ground safely."

Mr O'Neill was checked over by RAF medics before being transferred to Queen's Hospital in Romford, Essex where he is believed to be seriously ill.

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