If you’ve ever taken a flight lesson, you want to know that the instructor has years of experience under his or her belt. That’s exactly what flight student Max Sylvester was looking for when he shelled out top dollar to work with teacher Robert Mollard. But not long after taking off, Sylvester learned that Mollard had passed out and was nonresponsive, which meant only one thing – Sylvester had to make an emergency landing the first time he took to the air.
Because Sylvester had never flown a two-seater plane before, he had never landed one either. But with his life in his hands, as well as Mollard’s, he listened to his instinct and did what he could to bring the plane onto the ground without combusting into a fireball.
Mollard passed out on the job halfway through Sylvester’s flying lesson. He was flying a two-seater Cessna airplane on Saturday afternoon. Because he did not know what to do, Sylvester placed a distress call, which alerted air traffic control and the flying school that Mollard had lost consciousness and that he needed help landing the plane.
Chuck McElwee jumped into action to help Sylvester out of the predicament. McElwee was the owner and operator of Air Australia International. Throughout his 28-year career, McElwee had never experienced a similar incident. But with his guidance, as well as air traffic control’s, Sylvester managed to land the plane. However, it was only because Sylvester kept a level head that the emergency landing went off without a hitch.
McElwee guided Sylvester to Perth base, which had an airstrip available for landing. When he asked Sylvester, who was a father of three, if he knew how to operate a plane, Sylvester admitted that this was the first time he’d ever flown one. However, Mollard had claimed, earlier in the lesson, that he was the best student he’d ever taught.
As Sylvester drew closer to landing, the operating tower offered him positive support and guidance. With this help, the first-time flyer managed to land the plane and even keep the wings level. He also maintained steady speed and altitude throughout the remainder of the flight until the time came for him to land at Perth base.
Sylvester also had his wife and three children to thank for his success at landing the plane. They were at the control tower talking to him and giving him a reason to stay cool, so he didn’t freak out and crash the plane. When he landed the Cessna aircraft without incident, his family was overjoyed to see him – and they were proud.
Mollard passed out an hour into their flight lesson. Sylvester described what happened to the control tower.
“He’s leaning on my shoulder. I’m trying to keep him up, but he keeps falling down. I’ve just tried to lift his head back up to see how he’s going, but he’s not responding.”
Sylvester touched down safely at Jandakot Airport. Both men landed without injury. Mollard was rushed to the hospital where he is listed as being in stable condition. It is unclear what happened to Mollard.
After the incident, Sylvester received his flying solo certificate. However, he never expected his maiden flight to be such an adventure.
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