Caravan Pilot Who Collapsed Last Year Flying Again!

By Spyros Georgilidakis | November 8, 2023

Last year, a passenger successfully landed a Cessna Caravan, after the pilot collapsed. Now, it’s time for some good news for that pilot!

It was a spectacular story. It happened on the 10th of May last year, involving a Cessna Caravan that had taken off from Marsh Harbour Airport in the Bahamas, with a pilot and two passengers. But before they could reach Fort Pierce, Florida, the pilot became incapacitated.

A Cessna Caravan. Photo: Kamil Pietrzak

The aircraft then entered a steep dive, with its pilot unconscious at the controls. But one of the passengers, Darren Harrison, managed to get to the pilot’s seat and recover the aircraft to level flight. He then got on the radio, calmly delivering a stark message:

“I’ve got a serious situation here about the pilot, he has gone… incoherent and I have no idea how to fly the airplane but I’m maintaining 9,100.

Caravan Pilot Who Collapsed Last Year Flying Again!
Harrison (right), the passenger who grabbed the controls, and Morgan (middle), the controller who talked him down. Photo: FAA

Getting To The Ground

Eventually, a controller called Robert Morgan, who was also a flight instructor, managed to guide Harrison to Palm Beach International. After everything else that had happened, the landing was so smooth that it seemed… anticlimactic!

There is A LOT more to this, including finding a way to talk to the aircraft at the wrong radio frequency. You can check out the Mentour Pilot video at the end of the article, for all the details. But despite the successful landing, there was one open question: what happened to the pilot of the Caravan?

A Cessna Caravan. Photo: Schummchen

About a week after this event, more information started emerging about the fate of this man. His name is Kenneth Allen, and it turned out that he had suffered a tear in his heart’s main artery – also called an aortic dissection. He was 64 years old at the time.

His only warning, before the accident flight, was a mild headache. In several interviews, the pilot said that the last thing he remembers is his passengers poking his arm and asking him to stay with them, as he was at the controls of the Caravan.

Caravan Pilot Who Collapsed Last Year Flying Again!
Kenneth Allen and his wife Stanna. Photo: Kenneth Allen via the Palm Beach Gardens Medical Center

The Caravan Pilot Recovers

The next thing he remembers was being pulled out of the aircraft. Allen underwent a multi-hour surgery at Palm Beach Gardens Medical Center, recovering successfully. Under the extremely trying circumstances, the fact that he got on the ground safely AND reached the hospital on time, and then survived a challenging surgery, was a small miracle in itself.

But now, 17 months later, the Caravan pilot managed to get back his medical, following exhaustive testing by the FAA. We don’t know if the recovering pilot has flown the same Caravan, but he has reportedly flown almost every day since the FAA reissued his medical.

A similar Caravan. Photo (levels): James, CC BY-SA 2.0

Better yet, Allen is planning a flight this week with Harrison, the passenger who grabbed the controls last year, Harrison’s wife, and their 14-month-old daughter, “bookending” this extraordinary event!

As for the Cessna Caravan at the center of this episode, there were suggestions that the stresses it underwent during that initial dive meant that it might not fly again. This thankfully wasn’t the case. The aircraft, with registration N333LD, appears to be flying regularly. However, we don’t know if Allen and Harrison will fly the same plane, for their next flight.


1 comment

  • Stephen Korbey

    As retired flight nurse with a great interest in flying I am impressed by all aspects of this story.

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