Blinded by a Stroke, UK Pilot Lands Safely Thanks to Help from the RAF

On a flight in his Cessna single over the southern UK, 65-year-old Jim O'Neill suffered a stroke that reportedly caused a blood clot to press on his optic nerve, impairing his vision to the point where he could not see the instrument panel in front of his face. Otherwise mostly unaffected, O'Neill coolly radioed for help, and was soon joined by Royal Air Force Wing Commander Paul Gerrard flying a Tucano turboprop trainer. Gerrard was able to join up on O'Neill's wing and issue commands to "turn slightly right" or, "nose up, nose down," etc, until O'Neill, a pilot for 18 years, was able to land successfully at RAF Linton-on-Ouse air base. The landing is reported to have involved three bounces, but there was no damage reported to the Cessna and O'Neill was transported to a hospital where his sight slowly began to recover-at least to the point of being able to see "the clock on the wall." His son Douglas said of the RAF, "It's one of those things you might hear about happening in some sort of all-action film, but it's hard to believe what they did. They were just tremendous."

Mark Phelps is a senior editor at AVweb. He is an instrument rated private pilot and former owner of a Grumman American AA1B and a V-tail Bonanza.

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