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Air traffic controllers honored for helping passenger land plane

Robert Morgan among those recognized by Palm Beach County commissioners
Posted at 3:20 PM, May 23, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-23 22:24:15-04

Several heroes — the air traffic controllers responsible for helping a passenger with no flight experience land a plane at Palm Beach International Airport earlier this month — were honored Monday for their efforts.

"I was called in to help the pilot, or the passenger, Darren Harrison, land the plane," air traffic controller Robert Morgan said. "They said, 'Hey, you're the flight instructor. You're the most current pilot here. Can you come in and help him land?'"

Robert Morgan all smiles after receiving commendation, May 23, 2022
Robert Morgan is all smiles after receiving a commendation from Palm Beach County commissioners May 23, 2022, at Palm Beach International Airport in West Palm Beach, Fla.

Morgan was the one wearing the headset when a passenger with no flying experience landed a plane at PBIA on May 10.

"I'm thinking, just student pilot, private pilot, what would they want to know?" Morgan said.

People around the country are praising Morgan and his colleagues for their actions that day. But on Monday, that praise came from closer to home.

Being a flight instructor helped Morgan guide the passenger to the runway, but he said it was calmness that got the wheels on the ground. 

"They're looking at me to save the day," Morgan said. "So I'm like, 'I can't fail.'"

sun rises over air traffic control tower at Palm Beach International Airport, May 23, 2022
The sun rises May 23, 2022, over the air traffic control tower at Palm Beach International Airport in West Palm Beach, Fla.

"What they were able to accomplish, what they were able to do and the ability to save the lives of the people who were on that plane is the most amazing thing that we can be celebrating here today," Palm Beach County Mayor Robert Weinroth said.

Weinroth gave Morgan and the four other air traffic controllers who helped that day certificates of commendation, with Morgan's two children there to see it. 

"He's calm, so I know that he'd be perfect for the job. But I was so surprised," Chloe Morgan said.

"We can't believe that you're the hero of Jupiter, and we were just all so proud of him really," Christian Morgan said.

Morgan said this has been a once in a lifetime experience, but one he hopes he never has to experience again. 

"Nobody had to lose their life that day. I'm just so happy that I could help everyone and that was my main concern," Morgan said. "We saved the day. Nobody got hurt."