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Published:April 13th, 2009 15:05 EST
Passenger Safely Grounds Plane After Pilot Died Mid-Flight

Passenger Safely Grounds Plane After Pilot Died Mid-Flight

By Christopher HIllenbrand

A passenger took over for a pilot, who died during the flight, and successfully landed a twin-engine plane with five other people on board.

According to officials with the Federal Aviation Administration, the pilot passed out and later died from a massive heart attack while taking off from an airport in Naples, Florida, on Sunday. The FAA confirmed that the jet was on auto-pilot and already ascending to an elevation of 10,000 feet at the time he died.

The passenger, who reacted swiftly to the situation, is a pilot licensed to fly single-engine planes and had 20 years of aviation experience under his belt, but isn`t qualified to fly the King Air turboprop twin-engine jet.

An air traffic controller reportedly needed to call a friend in the industry from Connecticut to get information about the King Air line, before telling instructions to the passenger. The entire landing lasted about 15 to 20 minutes with the jet safely landing at Southwest Florida International Airport in nearby Fort Myers.

The flight departed from Marco Island and was intially routed to Jackson, Mississippi.

The names of the pilot and the pasengers were not released.