Elderly woman lands plane after pilot dies

STURGEON BAY, WI (CNN/WLUK) – An 80-year-old woman found herself alone at the controls of a plane after the pilot, her husband, fell unconscious mid-flight.

A witness recorded cell phone video of the moment 80-year-old Helen Collins landed a twin-engine Cessna. Her husband, 81-year-old John Collins, was slumped in the pilot's seat.

Robert Vuksanovic, a licensed pilot and flight instructor, scrambled to get a second plane owned by the Collins family in the air.

After 15 minutes, he was in the air and flying next to the Collins plane to help her land, and surprised at how calm Collins was.

"She was confident. Now, she wanted to know if I was confident in her confidence, and I said, 'Well, if you're confident, I'm confident. I think we're confident. I think we can do this,'"said Vuksanovic.

On the ground emergency crews secured the area, and Vuksanovic's wife coordinated the operation from a radio room.

"We were able to stabilize her where she could maintain altitude; maintain airspeed, and reduce the power setting," said Cathy Vuksanovic.

The plane had been in the air for several hours, and was running low on fuel. After several practice runs, Collins pointed the nose of the plane at the end of the runway.

"She did a great job. It - the timing was perfect. Came down; landed a little - a little less than three-point, landed on the nose gear," said Vuksanovic.

The sheriff said Collins was taken to the hospital with back injuries, and her husband was pronounced dead from injuries not related to the crash.

"John Collins was a, a very close fellow aviator and, we, we just, hate to see him go," said Vuksanovic.

The couple's son said he plans to repair their plane and fly it again someday as a tribute to his father.

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