Man With No Flight Training Crash-Lands Plane After Pilot Stricken
PHOENIX (AP) _ Matthew Kornblum had sat in at the controls of an airplane before, but never at night and never with the pilot unconscious.
On Thursday, he found himself in that position, and walked away from a crash landing.
″Definitely an E ticket ride,″ the 34-year-old said, referring to the pass Disneyland used to sell for its most exciting attractions. ″It’s just something you have to do when you’re in a do-or-die situation.″
Kornblum flew the Cessna 182 for about 15 minutes after the pilot had a fatal seizure, and brought the plane into Flagstaff’s Pulliam Airport without benefit of runway lights or help from the tower, which was closed at the time.
Kornblum, an electrical engineer from Charlotte, N.C., has never had a flying lesson but said Graham and other pilots have allowed him to take the controls several times.
″I’ve had maybe 10 hours at the stick,″ Kornblum said. ″I’m really glad I’ve paid attention.″
Kornblum and 59-year-old Billy D. Graham were returning to Flagstaff from a business trip to Kayenta, about 130 miles away, when Graham convulsed and passed out, Kornblum said. He propped Graham up and took over the controls.
Kornblum said he was too high on his first attempt at landing but came in on the second try, bouncing the plane three times and collapsing the nose gear before the aircraft skidded to a halt.
Police Sgt. Dennis Connell said, ″He did just a wonderful job. He landed in the deep dark.″
Graham was pronounced dead at a hospital. An autopsy was scheduled to determine the cause of death, but Kornblum said he apparently had a heart attack.