Air Force Goes to Aid of Disoriented Civilian Pilot
Undated (AP) _ EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. (AP) - Maj. Roy Taylor left base in his F-16 jet fighter on a test flight, but it became a mercy flight when he and other pilots went to the aid of a civilian who fell asleep at the controls of a small plane.
Taylor, of Opelousas, La., a pilot for the 3324th Test Wing, was assigned to do wing vibration tests over the Gulf of Mexico for the Eglin-based Air Force Armaments Division.
But shortly after he took off Tuesday, federal controllers in Jacksonville informed Eglin mission control that a small civilian plane had strayed into restricted air space near Taylor’s Fighting Falcon.
Mission control asked Taylor to look for the Piper Cheyenne, flown by Dr. Clayton Davie, a Birmingham, Ala., neurosurgeon.
According to Davie’s flight plan, he was supposed to be flying from Birmingham to Destin, a resort near Eglin. But he already had overshot his destination.
Taylor was joined by another jet from the test wing, an F-4 Phantom II flown by Col. Jimmy Sharp of Grandfield, Okla., and Lt. Col. Walt Guthrie of Adel, Ga.
″Once we had him on our radar we flew to him and picked him up visually,″ Taylor said Wednesday.
They found Davie at 18,000 feet 100 miles south of Destin.
″He was slumped over the controls,″ Taylor said. ″Because the plane was on autopilot we had to be careful not to disturb it too much because some autopilots will automatically shut off if there’s turbulence.″
After a few minutes, Davie woke up and the Air Force pilots radioed him the correct coordinates before escorting him to the Destin Airport.
″I don’t know how I went to sleep,″ Davie said. ″But I’m glad that they were there to help. I want to thank them for saving me. I was having trouble with the compasses in the plane so I wasn’t sure exactly where I was.″
″It feels good to know that we surely helped him out,″ Taylor said. ″But it took everyone.″