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Passenger takes over after death of pilot

DOUG White and his family had just enjoyed a smooth takeoff and were ascending through the clouds on Monday when the pilot guiding their twin-engine plane tilted his head back and made a guttural sound.

The pilot, Joe Cabuk, was dead. White had his pilot's license, but he had never flown a plane as large as the one carrying his family.

"I need help. I need a King Air pilot to talk to. We're in trouble," he radioed. Then he turned to his wife and two daughters: "You all start praying hard." Behind him, his wife trembled. Sixteen-year-old Bailey cried. Eighteen-year-old Maggie threw up.

Thirty minutes later, White, 56, had brought the plane safely down, coaxed through the harrowing ordeal by Florida air traffic controllers.

When a controller asked whether he was on autopilot, White replied: "I'm in the good Lord's hands flying this Niner Delta Whiskey," giving the code for the aircraft.

White had logged about 150 hours recently flying a single-engine Cessna 172 but had no experience flying King Airs. Fortunately, he knew how to work the radio and managed to contact the air traffic controllers.


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