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UK: RAF guides blinded pilot into landing

08 Nov 2008 2:00 AM

LONDON, Nov 7 DPA - A light aircraft pilot, blinded by a stroke while flying, was guided to a safe landing by Royal Air Force (RAF) pilots giving instructions over the radio as they flew alongside him, the BBC reported today.

Jim O'Neill, 65, was flying his two-seater Cessna light aircraft at 4,572 metres en route from Scotland to Colchester, in south-east England, on October 31 when he suddenly went blind.

RAF Wing Commander Paul Gerrard, chief flying instructor, scrambled his Tucano T1 training aircraft from a base in Yorkshire, in northern England, andflew it to within about 50 metres of the Cessna and talked O'Neill safely down by issuing instructions over the radio.

"He used his voice to guide (O'Neill) down by telling him to turn left and right, to lower the plane and to do his pre-landing checks," said Wing Commander Andy Hynd, who assisted.

"At very short range he still couldn't see the runway and it was only at the last minute that he could. He landed about halfway down and came to a halt just at the end."

"The RAF routinely practises shepherding but we are usually shepherding lost aircraft. We are not used to shepherding blind pilots, which is what makes this amazing," said Gerrard.

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