Air traffic controller talks pilot down from clouds

Fair-weather pilot becomes desperate after flying into cloud


HILLIARD, Fla. – When a pilot rated for flying under visual flight rules found himself trapped in clouds and spiraling out of control, he radioed for help.

"I've got myself in a situation here," the pilot radioed an air traffic controller. "I'm in some clouds. I need to find a way out."

The Central Florida pilot said he has been flying small planes for nearly 40 years, but he found himself desperate for guidance when blue skies became a cloud bank near the Florida state line.

"I don't know what to do," the pilot radioed to the Hilliard FAA center.

"What I really wanted to say to him was, 'Me too, buddy. Let's get through it together,' but you know, I was trying to stay calm," said Brian Graham, a controller on duty that day.

Graham talked the pilot down from nearly 4,000 feet while the pilot attempted to pull the plane of a spiral.

"Take a deep breath there. Take a look at everything. Make sure we're straight and level again," Graham told the pilot.

The 67-year-old pilot who prefers to remain anonymous to fear his wife will learn what happened, said he had always relied on the horizon to let him know which way was up and down. When he got into the clouds, he became disoriented..

"It really scared the crap out of me."

He said he is grateful to the calm, knowledgeable controller who talked him dawn.

"What can you say? Thank you, thank you, thank you."

Graham is glad to hear the pilot is doing OK. He said he only did what any controller would do.

"It's kind of embarrassing, because I feel like I was just doing my job," Graham said.