Off Duty Air Force Pilot Helps Land Airplane After Pilot Passes Out

Captain Mark Gongol

For many in the military, leave is a chance for them to disconnect and relax. However, it does not mean that their skills and ability to assess a situation get turned off.

Plane With An Emergency

Captain Mike Gongol was a B1-B Lancer pilot on his way to Colorado to see his family on a Boeing 737. As they were flying, he noticed that the engine was idling, then the plane dipped and drifted right.

Clearly, something was wrong. There was a nurse, Linda Alweiss, on the plane too. When she went into the cockpit, the pilot was slumped over. The flight attendants asked if there was a doctor on the plane and asked the passengers to remain seated.

The next time the attendants came over the intercom, they asked for a “non-revenue pilot.” That’s when Gongol realized the pilot was the likely patient.

With the first officer being the only other pilot, Gongol’s expertise was needed. Gongol “looked to his wife as she gave him a nod, and Gongol pressed his button and headed toward the flight deck.”

Stepping In

However, Gongol flew a very different type of plane than the Boeing 737. Every aspect was different from weight to crew and even thrust. So he decided it was best to step in as the first officer.

Gongol proceeded to be the now pilot’s second set of eyes, double-checking the checklists and watching for anything that could go wrong. He said to Air Force Space Command, “She was calm, but you could tell she was a little stressed, who wouldn’t be.”

He let her take the lead up to their landing in Omaha. She had never landed at the airport before and was a little unsure.

But, Gongol had landed there multiple times while he was training. He talked the first officer through the landing. Thankfully, with Gongols help the pilot, crew, and passengers, a total of 157 people all survived the flight.




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