South Yorkshire man John Wildey had never flown a plane – until a pal collapsed in the cockpit forcing him to take control.
The story of how the 77-year-old complete novice, from Rossington, Doncaster, managed to fly solo and, against all the odds, land the aircraft is being told in a Channel 4 documentary tonight.
It brings together the team who helped talk him down safely in October last year, and includes recordings of his conversations with the people in the control tower, including instructor Roy Murray.
The pilot, who has since died, had collapsed in the cockpit and Mr Wildey – who had never even flown an aircraft before – was left to ground the Cessna 172.
He needed several attempts before finally touching down in the dark.
John Cameron, the first air traffic controller to speak to John, says: “This guy was in trouble. Worst-case scenario was a crash. His chances of landing safely and walking away were possibly no more than 30 per cent.”
John, a widower, who has three grown-up children, said: “I’m a lucky bloke.
“I bought a lottery ticket that week and won £6.70. I’ve always dreamed of flying aircraft but not in those circumstances. I don’t know how I stayed so calm, but when I climbed out of that plane I was shaking like a leaf.”
John has since flown several times and he even recently took his first lesson.
n Mayday: The Passenger Who Landed A Plane, is at 9pm, on Channel 4.