Jim O’Neill was flying from Scotland to southeastern England last week when he had a blinding stroke. the Royal Air Force guided the pilot down for a safe landing.
The story played out as O’Neill radioed for help requesting to land as soon as possible. RAF Wing Commander Paul Gerrard was just finishing a training flight when the call came in. He flew close enough to O’Neill’s Cessna to radio directions.
The Associated Press reports:
“Landing an aircraft literally blind needs someone to be right there to say ‘Left a bit, right a bit, stop, down,'” Gerrard said. “On the crucial final approach, even with radar assistance, you need to take over visually. That’s when having a fellow pilot there was so important.
Those instructions turned a potential tragedy into a victory. Douglas O’Neill, son of the 65-year-old Cessna pilot said his father has been a pilot for almost twenty years.
“The doctors have confirmed that he suffered a stroke from a blood clot, but he doesn’t seem to have suffered any other ill-effects apart from losing his sight,” Douglas O’Neill said. “He says he went blind very suddenly and then, once he’d got over the shock, was able to distinguish a bit of darkness and light.”