The Amazing Story of a Pilot Who Landed Safely By Dialing 911 With a Disconnected Cell Phone

At 3 a.m. on October 19 a pilot of a small plane lost all electrical power. Air Traffic Control lost contact.

After 15 minutes, the Dallas Love Field control tower received a call from 911. The pilot called from a disconnected cell phone.

The controllers had no way to call him back.

A few minutes later, 911 called again.

“I have him on the line,” the 911 operator said.

“Please connect him,” Martin said.

“Hello?” the pilot said.

“Can you hear me?” Martin asked.

“Barely,” the pilot answered.

But they could communicate.

The controller asked, “Do you have your gear down?”

The answer from the pilot was not reassuring.

“I have no indication.”

…Step by step, Martin guided him in over the phone while Valadez worked the radio, coordinating emergency crews and keeping other planes off the runway.

The pilot’s landing gear was down. But he had to land without engine power…

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. The cell phone networks are designed to accept any 911 call from any phone that can connect to their network, even if the phone doesn’t have active cell service. As well they should be.

  2. I was surprised that someone who has the resources to be flying his own plane wouldn’t also have the resources to keep his cellphone service active.

  3. I think you have a typo there “…land without engine power”. I think you mean electrical power. If he had no engine power, it is doubtful he would have even had time to make a phone call.

  4. yep, I second the comment on loss of electrical power. The engine would continue to run. It’s not a car engine that needs electrical power.

  5. Actually, he did land without engine power (as reported in the story). The pilot intentionally shut off the engine. His logic was that if the landing gear wasn’t in fact locked and collapsed upon landing, it wouldn’t damage the engine by preventing a prop strike on the ground with a running engine. While I understand his logic, I disagree with the decision – he’s basically denying himself the opportunity to do a go around, while in the middle of an emergency.

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