U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood last night praised the actions of air traffic controllers at Southwest Florida International Airport in Ft. Myers and Miami Center who helped a distressed passenger safely land a twin-engine plane after the pilot died at the controls shortly after take-off.
“I really wanted to applaud you for using your good skills and good common sense to bring this plane down safely,” Secretary LaHood told Ft. Myers Tracon controller Dan Favio by phone, describing his efforts and those of his fellow controllers as “heroic.”
Secretary LaHood has also reached out to controller Brian Norton, who worked with Favio in Ft. Myers, and flight instructor Kari Sorenson, a friend of Favio’s who helped relay important information about the plane to the controllers.
The three men helped passenger Doug White gain control of the plane and land after the pilot suffered an apparent heart attack with no warning. White had previously flown single-engine planes, but was not familiar with the twin-engine King Air 200. The other passengers on the plane were White’s wife and two teenaged daughters.
Favio came to the Federal Aviation Administration six months ago after previous air traffic control experience in the military and at a private contract tower. He has also logged some flight time as a pilot in single-engine planes. He quickly enlisted the help of Sorenson, who has thousands of hours of experience in the King Air 200.
With Sorenson’s detailed guidance on air speed, flap control and trim settings, the controllers helped White line up for the approach into Ft. Myers and land safely on his first attempt.
“You did great work and I really appreciate it,” LaHood told Favio.
LaHood also praised the efforts of controllers at Miami Center, who received the first emergency radio call from White and calmed him down before passing him over to their colleagues at Ft. Myers.