CHICAGO — An 80-year-old Wisconsin woman with no current flying experience landed a twin-engine Cessna after her pilot husband fatally passed out at the controls in mid-air, police said Tuesday.
With instructions via radio from the ground, but fast running out of fuel, Helen Wilson made three attempts Monday to touch down at Sturgeon Bay before landing so hard on the fourth try that the nose wheel collapsed.
“They could not have made a fifth pass,” Door County Sheriff Terry Vogel told Agence France-Presse by telephone, given that the eight-seat Cessna 414A — a relatively complex business airplane — was so low on fuel.
John Collins, 81, a local manufacturer of heating, air conditioning and plumbing parts, was declared dead on arrival at hospital. His wife reportedly suffered a crushed vertebra.
The couple’s son Richard Collins, 55, told ABCNews.com that his father had earlier complained about a sore neck. He added that his mother had flown in the past, but not in the past 30 years or so, and never in the Cessna 414A.
“I can’t even tell her how to run a computer, let alone land a plane,” he said. “It was a very trying time. I thought I was going to lose them both.”
The Wilsons had been flying home from the south of Florida with a stopover in Georgia, according to FlightAware, an online flight tracking service. Sturgeon Bay, on Lake Michigan, is 40 miles (65 kilometers) from Green Bay.