Trainee pilot lands plane safely after instructor passes out

A student pilot in Australia safely landed a light aircraft during a flying lesson, after his instructor passed out at the controls.

Western Australian man Max Sylvester made a distress call to air traffic control about an hour into his flight on Saturday when his teacher collapsed beside him.

Operators at an airport in Perth helped him guide the aircraft to the ground.

Mr Sylvester was later praised for his quick response and composure.

In his emergency call, a recording of which was later made public, he describes his teacher’s condition before taking instructions on flying the plane.

“I’m trying to keep him up but he keeps falling down,” he tells the operator.

When asked if he knows how to operate the Cessna aircraft, he replies: “This is my first lesson.”

Mr Sylvester had taken two flying lessons prior to the flight but it was his first encounter with the aircraft, and he had never tried a landing before.

‘This is my first lesson’: Transcript of flight recording

Pilot: Emergency, Emergency, Emergency. This is Tango, Foxtrot, Romeo, can you hear me?

Air Traffic Control (ATC): Tango, Foxtrot, Romeo, I can hear you. Do you know how to operate the aeroplane?

Pilot: Very very light. This is my first lesson.

ATC: Your instructor at the moment…. are they unconscious?

Pilot: He’s leaning over my shoulder. I’m trying to keep him upright. He keeps falling down.

ATC: Tango, Foxtrot, Romeo. Have you landed any aircraft before by yourself or with someone else at the controls with you?

Pilot: No I haven’t […]

ATC: Power off, power off, power off. Raise the nose gently, and you’re down on the ground. You did it mate. Well done. That’s amazing, you’ve done so well. Just break right there on the runway and we’re going to have all of the vehicles come out and meet you on the runway.

After circling the Jandakot Airport in Perth for nearly an hour and practicing approaches, he touched down safely on the runway at the airport where his family and emergency crew were waiting.

The instructor was taken to hospital in a stable condition.

In a news conference, Mr Sylvester said: “If I hadn’t studied, I wouldn’t be here. That’s a fact.”

“There is no doubt in the world that I won’t be flying. You have to do that because you have to show your kids that having issues like this, you have to power through them.”

Chuck McElwee, the flight school’s owner said: “There was no damage at all to the plane. Matter of fact, it was a perfect landing.”

He praised both the student pilot and the tower saying: “I’m telling you, you don’t get that cooperation very often.”


What a great story… Respect for the training pilot that landed safely that was amazing!


My first flight lesson is today. I hope this doesn’t happen to me…

EDIT: cancelled for the third time…


You will do fine! Good luck!


Wow that is fantastic - I’ve watched a video on a similar issue with this old guy who had never been in a plane before when his friend has a heart attack and dies. The co-pilot ends up landing a plane for his first time in the pitch black during a storm, it’s amazing what some people can do.

Good luck!

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Now let’s recap that:

You just arrived at the airport. It’s your very first flight lesson. You‘re just supposed to do a little flying. Get to know the aircraft.

You take off. Maybe your wife and children are watching at the airport. You feel proud but nervous as you’ve never flown an airplane before. You put all your trust in your instructor because you know that he’ll help you when needed.

And then, that person is just gone. You’re alone. You have little to no idea what you’re doing You know that not only your life is in your hands, but also the life of your instructor.

And yet, you manage to keep calm, land the plane on your own on your very first flight with little to no assistance and you make it to the ground safely, saving the life of the instructor and yourself.

That’s remarkable and it’s proof that good preparation is vital. Fantastic job, well done.


Unbelievable, respect to the person who landed safely! I’m Glad no one got hurt…


That is amazing.

That is amazing kudos to the pilot for keeping calm and getting the plane down on the ground safely

This was actually his third lesson, first in a high wing. Still an amazing job. He should have asked for taxi instruction to parking, or better yet to go twice more around the pattern for the solo sign off.

Moral of the story: Always study.

Saw it on the news. Wonderful job by the pilot and ATC. Congrats!

Saw this the other day. Amazing effort by the pilot. He was also awarded his Solo certificate after his first flying lesson for his heroic and brave efforts.

Also, the ATC in the situation was so calm and clear with his instructions which I’m sure would be a great help in the situation.

The source is form the BBC. May I ask why this is when we have an as reliable source here in Australia and no the complete other side of the world called ABC news.

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Because I ran into this story on BBC, mate :)

if you watch VASaviations video about it, he mentions to the tower when the company he’s with is on the phone and says “they better know I’m not paying for this flight” and the controller responds “I’ll pay for it out of my own wallet mate”
Wholesome controller :)
Seriously though the controller was brilliant at calming him down, I had a friend who was at the same airport and ended up seeing the landing.
For a first landing all I can say is…


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