King Air pilot-passenger landing: yet more tape, yet more heroism all around

Via the Naples News in Florida, this update on the first 14 minutes of transmissions between Douglas White, the low-time single-engine pilot who found himself in control of a twin-engine King Air whose pilot had just died, and the controllers who talked him safely to the ground.

The segment released last week covered the final minutes of the flight, when White brought the plane in for a safe landing. These preceding minutes are if anything more dramatic. They open with White's desperate "emergency" call and also include the coordinating actions between Miami and Ft. Myers controllers to try to get White the information he needed. (Last week's audio is here, in a full 21-minute version that includes dead-air time with no transmissions; the new portion is here.) As the Naples News story says about the team effort recorded in this new tape:

Miami air traffic controller, Lisa Grimm, a commercial-rated pilot with multi-engine ratings, scrambled to coordinate the emergency with the Fort Myers TRACON (Terminal Radar Approach Control) and with the other controllers at the Miami air traffic control center...

Fort Myers air traffic controllers Brian Norton and Dan Favio took over for Grimm, when White's plain reentered Fort Myers TRACON airspace...

Favio then contacted friend and King Air pilot Kari Sorenson in Connecticut, to help relay the necessary procedure information to White, so he could land the plane.

That was the hardest part of the ordeal, according to FAA officials, because the information transfer needed to occur by relaying the information among four people

The full sequence of recordings make clear the calm, inventive, above-and-beyond, and yes heroic efforts of everyone involved in the process, notably including the controllers. It is too bad the tapes were released separately because they are part of one narrative and emotional whole. Some of the events and tone in the final-approach tape seem quite different in light of what came before.

For instance, the amazing sangfroid of White as he brought the plane to a landing is a credit both to him and to the reassurances and detailed instructions he had received in the newly-released tape. The surreally calm and casual tone of the final-approach controller also seems to follow naturally from the initial segment and be exactly right in the circumstances. Air traffic controllers are not, as a rule, themselves pilots, and talking an inexperienced pilot down to the ground is something they are not trained to or expected to do. That they accomplished it in this case is a credit to everyone involved -- White and all the controllers. Any pilot who got in trouble would thank heaven for this kind of help.