She stayed airborne for over an HOUR before radioing for help
- 81-year-old pilot of eight-seater Cessna later died in hospital
- One of two engines lost power - and fuel was running low
By IAN GARLAND
A woman aged 80, who had never flown before, successfully managed to land a twin-engine Cessna after her husband passed out at the controls.
Somehow Helen Collins kept the plane airborne for over an hour - only radioing for help when low fuel levels caused the right engine to fail.
The elderly novice then showed nerves of steel to safely steer the aircraft onto the tarmac of the Door County Cherryland Airport in Wisconsin.
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Helen Collins, 80, pictured with her husband John, had little flying experience and knew her husband had died after he fell unconscious at the controls of their small plane, yet she landed the aircraft at a northeastern Wisconsin airport
A plane successfully landed in Wisconsin by an 80-year-old first-time pilot after her husband collapsed behind the controls
The first-time pilot was expertly helped by an air traffic team and a second pilot sent up to fly alongside her and coach her to the to the ground.
Her husband John, who authorities say suffered a medical condition while flying, was later pronounced dead.
Collins suffered only minor injuries, the result of a bumpy landing, and was treated at a nearby hospital.
Her son, Richard Collins, told ABC News: 'I can't even tell her how to run a computer, let alone land a plane. It was a very trying time. I thought I was going to lose them both.'
His parents were flying from Florida to Wisconsin on Monday. John had not been feeling well on Thursday and he wanted to meet them in Rome, Georgia, where they were stopping, to fly the rest of the way.
'He wasn't right. You could tell something was wrong. He said he had a sore neck. He had called me on the phone and asked me where I was.
'I said I was at the airport waiting for him and he said he'd be there in 20 minutes. The next thing I knew, I saw the plane fly over the airport.
The Door County Cherryland Airport in Wisconsin, the scene of Monday's miracle landing.
The mid-air drama took place after 5pm on Monday, six miles south of the Midwest town of Sturgeon.
Door County Sheriff Terry Vogel has praised Collins' quick-thinking bravery.
'She's not a licensed pilot and has very little on flying an aircraft,' he said.
'We're very proud of her for doing what she did. It was a very difficult situation with her husband unconscious next to her. It took a lot to collect her thoughts and get that thing landed.'
Federal Aviation Authorities will investigate the incident.
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