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Imagine you are flying an airplane at several thousand feet. Suddenly, you go blind – you can’t see the controls and you can’t see the ground below or the sky around you. Below is a countryside dotted with towns and villages, and people unaware of the dangerous situation directly above.
Well that is just what happened to Jim O’Neill, a 65 year old pilot. He suffered a stroke while flying his two-seater Cessna aircraft from Glasgow Prestwick Airport to Colchester, Essex. Suddenly he realized he was not able to see the controls. He was cruising at 5,500 feet at the time. Mr. O’Neill told the Daily Express in an interview afterward:
It was terrifying. Suddenly I could not see the dials in front of me. All there was in front of me was a blur. I was helpless at the controls.
At first he thought it was just the sun blinding him. Then he realized the stroke had blinded him. He quickly radioed a mayday distress call to air traffic control authorities who tried to assist him with a landing at a nearby civilian airport.
When he was unable to land, the air traffic controllers handed him over to the Royal Air Force (RAF) for assistance. RAF controllers sent a fighter to rendezvous with him and guide him to an RAF landing site at Linton-on-Ouse. The video report below details how the story unfolded.