80-Year-Old Woman Lands Airplane After Husband Dies at Controls

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An 80-year-old Wisconsin woman was able to land a small airplane after her husband died while piloting the aircraft.

WLUK-TV reports that the drama in the skies began early Monday evening when Helen Collins radioed in to say that her 81-year-old husband John had passed out at the controls. Mrs. Collins quickly took over. It seems they were coming back home to Wisconsin from Florida after a stop in Georgia.

"A couple in their 80s were flying and he went unconscious due to a medical condition he had. She took over the aircraft. She's not a licensed pilot and has very little (knowledge) on flying an aircraft," said Door County Sheriff Terry Vogel.

About an hour later the situation became more dire because the right engine ran out of fuel. Authorities decided to send another husband and wife pilot team, Robert and Catherine Vuksanovic, up to help her out.

"We got him up into an aircraft and he felt it was easier for him to give her instructions, for him to determine for instance, her speed in the air and how to instruct how to successfully land that aircraft," Vogel said.

They were able to talk the woman down via radio. It was a bumpy landing, but it was a successful landing nonetheless.

"I saw them come down, and then like the nose of the plane just bumped, then they kind of flew back up and then they landed," said witness Zoe Hirthe.

Mrs. Collins was taken to a hospital with back pain. Her husband was pronounced dead.

"We're very proud of her for doing what she did.  It was a very difficult situation with her husband unconscious next to her.  It took a lot to collect her thoughts and get that thing landed," Vogel said.


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