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Wife lands plane after pilot dies at controls

AN 80-year-old woman with little flying experience managed to land the small plane she was in after her husband fell unconscious and died at the controls.

The woman remained calm as she landed the aircraft at a northeastern Wisconsin airport. Her son James Collins said yesterday that he was also a pilot and he helped his mother, Helen Collins, via radio as the Cessna twin-engine plane began running out of gas.

Another pilot also took to the skies to guide her to the ground at Cherryland Airport, near Sturgeon Bay - about 240 kilometres north of Milwaukee.


He said his mother took lessons to take off and land about 30 years ago, but never got her licence.

"At one point she didn't even want the wingman to go up," he said. "She said, 'Don't you guys think I could do this on my own?' She was calmer than everybody on the ground. She had it totally under control."

They were coming back from their second home in Marco Island, Florida, for Easter, Collins said.

His 81-year-old father, John Collins, had a heart attack about seven minutes from landing and had called her to the cockpit before he became unconscious, Collins said. She had called police dispatchers, and that's when everyone came together to help her.