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Sunday 21 September 2014

Man thanks RAF for landing lesson

Published 06/08/2014 | 15:01

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John Wildey, second right, meets the RAF Search and Rescue crew that guided him down after he was forced to land a plane when the pilot was taken ill

A passenger who was forced to land a plane after t he pilot was taken ill has thanked the RAF Search and Rescue crew who guided him down, saying "It's hard to believe I actually did all this."

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Grandfather John Wildey, 77, landed the light aircraft at Humberside Airport last October after being talked through it by a flight instructor and guided in by a Sea King helicopter from RAF Leconfield in East Yorkshire.

Today, the former RAF clerk met the crew who came to his aid in front of the yellow helicopter which helped him find his way down.

Mr Wildey said he was glad to see them in the air and get into formation with them.

"I'm ex-RAF so I knew I was in good hands."

He said: "It's hard to believe I actually did all this. Here's little old me - I always wanted to fly but had never done it except as a passenger. Then suddenly doing it and everyone making such a big fuss of it."

Mr Wildey said he was quite calm as he took the controls because he was concentrating so hard but the stress of the situation hit him when he got back on the ground.

"At that time I was a wibbly-wobbly wreck because it all kicked in once I'd stopped," he said.

"I could hardly walk, my legs were so wobbly."

He said: "I've had two nightmares since about it and the only trouble is that in the nightmares I don't land."

Flight Lieutenant Becca Bethell was the captain of the Sea King on the night.

She said: "I was flying and normally the co-pilot would be talking on the radio but we decided to see if a female voice would be calming or soothing, so I ended up speaking to him in the end.

"He was incredibly relaxed. He was joking with us and rationally chatting to us.

"There was no panic, he was very, very calm."

The officer said she only detected some concern in the pensioner's voice when he made a number of approaches which had to be aborted.

Flt Lt Bethell said: "It was like a Hollywood movie when we got scrambled to it and I did wonder - can somebody who's never flown a plane land it?

"I did fear the worst but hoped for the best."

She said: "It's been brilliant today. It's kind of closed the loop for us.

"We've had all the separate interviews and seen the film so to actually meet him and be able to shake his hand has been brilliant."

Mr Wildey required several attempts before finally touching down in the dark with no lights.

The pilot, who later died, had collapsed in the cockpit and Mr Wildey - who had never flown an aircraft before - was left to land the Cessna 172.

The aircraft was heading back to its base at Sandtoft airfield, near Doncaster in South Yorkshire, at about 6.20pm on October 8.

Flight instructor Roy Murray, who guided Mr Wildey through the manoeuvre from the airport control tower, said at the time he made a "beautiful landing".

Mr Murray, who is chief instructor at the Frank Morgan School of Flying, said he had never heard of an incident like this in the UK.

The plane had only minor damage to its wheel.

The whole incident was reconstructed for a TV documentary earlier this year.

Press Association

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