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Student Pilot Miraculously Lands Plane When Instructor Blacks Out: 'This Is My First Lesson'

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Max Silvester of Australia is living proof that you should do your homework, even when no one is checking.

While many classes don’t present as dire a situation as Silvester found himself in, it’s his reading that ended up saving his life and the life of the pilot who was with him.

Silvester was working toward his commercial pilot’s license, having logged just under three hours of the 150 total he’d need. It was his third time out with an instructor — but partway through the lesson, it became very clear that he would be given a life-or-death pop quiz.

His instructor slumped over and was later determined to have possibly suffered from a seizure, according to 9News.

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While Sylvester had flown before, it was his first time in this particular type of aircraft and he’d never attempted a landing before, which is generally considered the most difficult part of flying a plane.

He may not have had much experience behind the controls, but Sylvester maintained his cool and contacted the control tower. He explained his predicament.

“Have you ever landed any aircraft before by yourself or with someone else at the controls with you?” Air Traffic Control asked.

“No I haven’t,” Sylvester said, adding “this is my first lesson.”

Not only was the instructor unresponsive, but Sylvester was trying to handle the plane as well as keep his instructor from further harm.

“He’s leaning over my shoulder,” he said, according to BBC. “I’m trying to keep him upright. He keeps falling down.”

Air Traffic Control continued to give Sylvester instructions, and he flew by several times to prepare for his first-ever landing at Jandakot Airport in Western Australia.

“Just keep an eye on your speed that you’re not going into the red too much and keeping those wings level and keeping your nose nice and level on the horizon,” ATC instructed.

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Video of the landing captured the finesse of the new pilot as he maneuvered the craft onto the runway in what was later described as “a perfect landing.”

Once they were down on the ground and safe, the instructor was rushed to Fiona Stanley Hospital.

When asked how he managed the landing, Sylvester’s answer was pretty straightforward.

“My study kicked in — of actually reading my study books, so that definitely saved me,” he said.

“If I hadn’t studied, I wouldn’t be here,” he added. “That’s a fact.”

“Well, my flight instructor did say I was the best student he’d had,” Sylvester said, according to CNN.

The flight school’s owner, Chuck McElwee, concurred and praised the whole team effort.

“There was no damage at all to the plane,” McElwee said. “Matter of fact, it was a perfect landing.”

Sylvester has clearly illustrated that he will make an excellent pilot, his calm demeanor and preparedness contributing to his textbook landing. He says he plans to become a commercial pilot, and if this incident is any indicator it looks like he’ll definitely make the grade.

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Amanda holds an MA in Rhetoric and TESOL from Cal Poly Pomona. After teaching composition and logic for several years, she's strayed into writing full-time and especially enjoys animal-related topics.
As of January 2019, Amanda has written over 1,000 stories for The Western Journal but doesn't really know how. Graduating from California State Polytechnic University with a MA in Rhetoric/Composition and TESOL, she wrote her thesis about metacognitive development and the skill transfer between reading and writing in freshman students.
She has a slew of interests that keep her busy, including trying out new recipes, enjoying nature, discussing ridiculous topics, reading, drawing, people watching, developing curriculum, and writing bios. Sometimes she has red hair, sometimes she has brown hair, sometimes she's had teal hair.
With a book on productive communication strategies in the works, Amanda is also writing and illustrating some children's books with her husband, Edward.
Austin, Texas
Languages Spoken
English und ein bißchen Deutsch
Topics of Expertise
Faith, Animals, Cooking