Is Doug White a hero? Absolutely. The man saved his wife and two daughters by landing a plane he had never flown after the pilot died on post-takeoff ascent in Florida.
Slightly overlooked in much of the [LINK]news coverage are 4 other heroes from that day: air traffic controllers Lisa Grimm, Brian Norton and Dan Favio, and flight instructor Kari Sorenson. I won't retell their story in its entirety, but I urge all of you to read it in all its gripping detail at ATC Network.
The abridged version is this: White's pilot died early in the flight and all White knew how to do in the King Air 200 was use the radio. He reached controller Lisa Grimm. “I’ve got a dead pilot. I’m in a King Air 200. I’m climbing on top of a cloud layer and I don’t know how to fly this thing. I need a King Air pilot and I need some help quick,” White told the controller.
And that may have been all he needed because Grimm coordinated the emergency while TRACON's Norton was able to talk White through disengaging the autopilot, stabilizing the plane, and landing safely. Not that Norton was any more familiar with the aircraft than White himself; he was relaying instructions from Favio, who had called his friend Sorenson for detailed instructions. “I sat beside Brian and called Sorenson,” Favio said. “He just happened to be sitting in his office and he was able to pull out the checklist for the King Air 200 and the cockpit diagram.”
Sorenson has logged hundreds of hours in the King and calmly dictated the necessary steps to Favio and Norton and, ultimately, to White. "We started providing him with positions of controls, switches, how to configure the aircraft for landing," Sorenson said.
Tower manager Steve Bushey credited their coolheadedness under extraordinary circumstances for helping White maintain the focus he needed to guide the plane safely to rest on the Ft. Myers runway: “I couldn't be more proud of them. We're happy to have a good story and particularly because the outcome was positive. You can't beat that.”
We should applaud all involved for using their good skills and good common sense to bring this plane down.
And, let Doug White have the last word: “Most of us have no clue what air traffic controllers do for a living, or what they go through, especially in a busy airspace,” White said. “They are not given near enough credit for what they do. … Those guys are my heroes.”