An Unconscious Landing

An Unconscious Landing; Plane Lands Itself in Hayfield as Pilot Slumbers

by Douglas R. Burnett

Pilots love to describe their great landings, some of which are characterized (usually by others) as "unconscious." However, to land while being unconscious, yet able to describe it is an entirely different matter. Ordinarily, a pilot's in-flight incapacitation brings about tragic consequences.

On the afternoon of March 1, 1999, we were enjoying an exceptionally good Basic AME (aviation medical examiner) seminar. Dr. Allen Parmet, presenting aviation physiology (as always, on Monday afternoon), had started to tell the remarkable story of a pilot who lost consciousness while flying alone and woke up in a hay field. Before Dr. Parmet could finish, a voice from the back of the room exclaimed, "I was that pilot!"

Dr. Robert Frayser, from Hoisington, Kan., attending his first AME seminar, took over telling this incredible, real-life incident that had happened to him just over a year ago in central Missouri. He had left his home airport at 7 am enroute for Topeka, Kan. "I was flying alone in my Comanche 400, cruising at 5,500 feet on autopilot, with the sun coming up on a clear, beautiful day." All was routine flying activity as he switched the fuel selector to the auxiliary tank and set up the navigation system for his destination.

After that, it was anything but routine. "Then, I lost about an hour and a half of my life."...

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