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Exclusive: Air Traffic Controller Recalls ‘Scare In The Air’ Over Chester County

(credit: CBS) Walt Hunter
Eyewitness News Reporter Walt Hunter is one of the market's ...
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By Walt Hunter

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Speaking exclusively to CBS 3, Air Traffic Controller Jason Boyde described the tense moments on Sunday, February 26, as a single engine plane suddenly disappeared from radar above Chester County.

Boyde says he was told by fellow controller Israel Bonilla,”I think I lost one,” meaning that the plane had suddenly disappeared from radar and was not responding to radio calls.

As an alarm sounded, Boyde and Bonilla, along with fellow controllers, reached out to a commercial pilot nearby to see if he could contact or spot the aircraft. The pilot got no response.

Boyde says controllers would eventually learn the aircraft, which had been flying at 10,000 feet just west of Wilmington, Delaware, on flight from Smyrna, Delaware to Lancaster, suddenly plunged nearly 6,000 feet over Chester County, before the pilot could level it off.

The controller says the dive created G-forces so strong they lifted the pilot out of his seat, shattering his headset against the plane’s canopy.

Despite the dramatic fall, neither the pilot, nor his passenger, suffered any serious injuries. The plane was damaged however, but was able to continue its trip before landing safely.

Boyde, vice president of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association at Philadelphia International Airport, says it was later determined that the plane experienced mechanical problems connected to its Auto Pilot System.

Meanwhile, Boyde says, the pilot, through a supervisor,e xpressed his thanks to the controllers for their calm, professional actions which helped bring the frightening incident to a safe conclusion.

The pilot did not respond to requests for comment.

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