Pilot makes dramatic landing with help of air traffic controller - CBS46 News

Pilot makes dramatic landing with help of air traffic controller

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Air Traffic Controller Mason Braddock directs hundreds of planes traveling in and out of Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport daily. Most are Airbus and or other large aircraft.

But on February 14th, 2016, one of the small yellow dots on his screen was Cathy Lewan, flying alone in her single engine Cessna. 

Braddock didn't know it then, but Lewan was in trouble. There was smoke in the cockpit and worst, she had a stuck throttle.

"A struck throttle," Lewan said. "I had never heard of it. No matter how you pushed it, my speed was constant."

She said it's like being in a car with the gas pedal stuck down. Lewan called in an emergency to air traffic control and Braddock picked up. She said her family flashed before her eyes.

"Could I ask you one more favor?" she could be heard asking over the radio. "Could you call my husband for me?"

Lewan said she immediately thought of her father, who was a pilot in the army. He was killed in a plane crash years ago.

"I could hear the distress in her voice and that was my main concern," said Braddock.  

In his nine years on the job, Braddock had seen trouble before. But never a pilot in such a small aircraft. He said his job was to keep her calm and to somehow help her land safely.

"We're going to call him right now for you and make sure he knows we're taking good care of you," Braddock told Lewan over the radio, speaking of her husband.

"I know I'm going to be fine because you're helping me and the good Lord is helping me," Lewan said.

He stayed with her on the radio helping her to maneuver around the other air traffic. After consulting with several others, including other pilots, they came up with a solution some may consider daring. They were going to pull the fuel mixture.

"When you pull the mixture back, the engine will cut on you," Braddock told her.

Lewan got closer to Hartsfield-Jackson and did just that. Touching down safely, she said she'd never felt more grateful.

"I'll tell you what, the busiest airport in the world has never been too busy for me."

The entire event took about 50 minutes. 50 minutes that seemed like a lifetime for Lewan and she credits Braddock and all those who assisted him with saving her life.

The air traffic control team will be recognized at an aviation safety conference in Las Vegas next week. 

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