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Air traffic controller at Treasure Coast International Airport describes assisting hero pilot

'It's kind of phenomenal he was able to keep presence of mind to do what he was doing,' Chip Flores says
Cessna plane that landed at Palm Beach International Airport after pilot suffered medical condition, May 10, 2022
Posted at 3:07 PM, May 16, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-16 18:18:19-04

ST. LUCIE COUNTY, Fla. — The first person that a hero pilot came in contact with before landing last week at Palm Beach International Airport was based at the Treasure Coast International Airport in St. Lucie County.

Chip Flores, an air traffic controller with more than a decade of experience, spoke Monday with WPTV about the event that's made headlines across the world.

Flores said he's dealt with many emergencies from the tower before but never a situation quite like this one.

Chip Flores, Treasure Coast International Airport air traffic controller discuss passenger landing plane
Chip Flores discusses the communication he had with Darren Harrison before the passenger successfully landed the Cessna in Palm Beach County.

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He said he wanted to make sure the passenger, who did not have any previous piloting experience, didn't have too many things to do at one time.

'I've got a serious situation here, my pilot has gone incoherent,' passenger said to air traffic controller at PBIA on May 10, 2022
A passenger radioed to air traffic controllers that the pilot was unable to land the plane.

"It's kind of phenomenal he was able to keep the presence of mind to do what he was doing," Flores said. "Looking back at the information I have, when his airplane went into a dive, it took him like another 10 minutes before he was able to call me. So, during that whole time, he was able to stabilize the airplane, got it in control."

Flores said the pilot, Darren Harrison, did a great job keeping the plane lined up with the runway at PBIA.

He added he feels good about the role he played, and that he’s glad the situation turned out the way it did.