Woman,80,lands plane low on fuel as pilot husband dies

Helen Collins had some flight training years ago but was not familiar with the controls

Written by Associated Press | Sturgeon Bay,wisconsin | Published: April 4, 2012 1:00:11 am

An elderly woman took control of a small plane dangerously low on fuel after her pilot husband fell unconscious and landed it at a small Wisconsin airport,the facility’s director said Tuesday.

Helen Collins,80,had some flight training years ago but was not familiar with the controls of the Cessna twin-engine plane when her husband passed out Monday,said Keith Kasbohm,director of Cherryland Airport. Collins’ 81-year-old husband,John,was pronounced dead at a hospital.

Another pilot took to the skies to guide Collins to the ground. “She was on her last attempt to get lined up with the runway,” Kasbohm said. “She reported one engine was sputtering on that last attempt to land. We were all watching and knew she had to do it.”

Robert Vuksanovic,a pilot,jumped in another plane owned by the Collins family and flew up to meet the Cessna while instructing Helen Collins over the radio.

“He felt it would be easier,” Kasbohm said. “With him alongside of her he could control her speed and altitude” before she attempted a landing. Kasbohm described Collins as “cool,calm and collected” as the aircraft made a hard landing and skidded about 1,000 feet before coming to rest.

“She did a really good job. It was amazing,” said Torry Lautenbach,whose property is next to the airport. “It took one bad hop,and then it came back down and skidded.”

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