The hero passenger who miraculously landed a plane on his own has been identified as a 39-year-old Florida man armed with nothing but a pair of flip flops and a background in interior design.
The man, identified by family as Darren Harrison, was headed home to Lakeland after a fishing trip in the Bahamas Tuesday afternoon when the pilot flying the Cessna Grand Caravan suddenly became “incapacitated” and “incoherent.”
The married father-to-be, who’s currently a vice president at Sunshine Interiors, sprung into action and radioed for help.
“I’ve got a serious situation here about my pilot,” the passenger-turned-airman is heard saying onboard the flight, according to audio posted by LiveATC.net.
“He’s incoherent, no idea how to fly the airplane but I’m maintaining 9,100.”
Harrison declined interviews wtih local media but his cousin, Matthew Harrison, told The Post he was shocked to learn his relative was behind the heroic landing.
“I was like ‘wait, that’s my cousin?’” Matthew, 37, said by phone.
“That was insane. I’m impressed too, he was so calm, I’ve never known him to be that calm before.”
Matthew said he was “super proud” and “super impressed” after he learned what his cousin did and said his pregnant wife couldn’t believe her husband managed to pull it off.
“I messaged his wife and said will you reach out to him and let him know I’m super impressed and proud of him, that’s amazing,” Matthew said.
“She said ‘I know that’s not like a phone call you expect to get…’ when he [told her what happened] she said ‘you did what?’” Matthew recalled, laughing.
“He’s definitely outgoing, loves outdoors, always been a hunter and he’s a good guy. He loves everything.”
Robert Morgan, the air traffic controller and part-time flight instructor who coached Harrison through the flight and landing, told the Today show the unlikely pilot was his “best student ever.”
“The pilot was slumped over on the controls and then they pushed him back, they get him out of his seat and then they had to get on the controls and pull back the plane so that it would climb up out of the dive that it was in,” Morgan told the outlet.
He did his best to keep Harrison calm as he explained how to slow down the plane and start preparing for a landing.
“You look great, you’re a little fast, what I want you to do is grab the throttle just pull that back a little bit because we need you to be slowed down,” Morgan recalled saying.
The plane briefly disappeared from radar but within ten seconds, Harrison radioed Morgan and told him he was on the ground at Palm Beach International Airport.
“My heart just kind of sank and I was like just thinking ‘thank God,’” Morgan said.
Glenda Watson, whose husband Christopher Watson works for Harrison, said her hubby told her all about it when he got home from work Wednesday.
“He said ‘boss man had to land a plane, he never flew a plane in his life,’” Watson told The Post.
“I think he caught everybody by surprise but he saved his life and whoever else was aboard… nothing but God that guided him with that plane.”
She said Harrison even went into the office on Wednesday after the heart-racing ordeal but left early in the day.
“I don’t blame him, I’d leave early too to go hold my wife,” said Watson.
“I bet you he won’t be going fishing for a little minute.”