Passenger Successfully Lands Plane After Finding Pilot ‘Slumped Over’

The aviation industry — particularly involving aircraft manufactured by Boeing — has weathered some troubling reports in recent months, but some close calls have produced inspiring stories of quick-thinking crew members or passengers.

That was the case on Sunday afternoon when Joseph Izatt, the pilot of a private plane carrying only one other individual, suffered a medical emergency. According to reports, the passenger was forced to take control of the Cirrus SR-20 aircraft and managed to land the plane safely at Raleigh-Durham International Airport.

Unfortunately, the unspecified medical emergency led to Izatt’s death, though it was unclear from available reports whether he was declared dead at the scene or after being transported to another facility upon landing.

Eevan Caulfield witnessed the incident after hearing a report on his radio scanner while carrying his daughter to the same airport. He took out his phone and captured footage of the harrowing incident.

“I knew I was witnessing something,” he said.

Air traffic control reports indicated that the passenger, who was not immediately identified, found the pilot “slumped over the controls” and was forced to operate the single-engine aircraft just minutes after it took off from the same airport where it landed.

Raleigh-Durham International Airport confirmed that the emergency landing did not require the closure of any runways and no other arrivals or departures were impacted by the incident.

As for Izatt, he was identified as the chairman of Duke University’s Department of Biomedical Engineering, where he had been employed for more than two decades. The campus ordered flags to be flown at half mast following his death.

His career included the publication of more than 200 papers and registration of more than 75 patents. He is survived by his wife and three children.

“Since joining Duke in 2001, Izatt served the university through dedicated service to his students and colleagues, and as a pioneering researcher,” the school explained in a statement.

Dean Jerome Lynch described him as “an exceptionally thoughtful leader who weighed every decision with a care that originated with his deep love for the BME community.”

Duke professor Hafeez Dhalla studied under Izatt and said that “what stands out for Joe is the community that he built — just an incredibly tight-knit community of accomplished scientists who hold him in very high esteem.”