Pilot Goes Blind at 15,000 Feet And Lands Safely

If you’re not impressed by the man who was blinded while flying a plane, but managed to land safely, I urge you to start playing Pilotwings for Super Nintendo and midway through, turn off your TV. Not so easy, is it smart guy?

Jim O'Neill

(Hey, wait a minute. How does he know where to look at the camera?)


Jim O’Neill
was flying his two-seat Cessna from Scotland to the south of England when he was stricken blind by a stroke at 15,000 feet, thereby placing this story in the “disabled athletes” category. At that point I think I would have gone through my emergency checklist, of pissing myself in fear, curling up into a little ball, and crapping myself in fear, in that order. But Jim calmly radioed for help, and the Royal Air Force sent up a plane to talk him down. Jim landed safely, with crap-free pants.


Said O’Neill, “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.” The control tower attempted to talk him through a landing at a nearby RAF base, but after four tries he couldn’t set it down.

Then they scrambled Wing Commander Paul Gerrard, thereby proving that the RAF has much cooler ranks than we do. Gerrard was able to talk O’Neill down, and on the eighth attempt, he landed with only two bounces.

Wing Cdr Gerrard, in a Tucano T1, said he radioed instructions like: “Left a bit, right a bit, stop, down.”

He added: “For me I was just glad to help a fellow aviator in distress. I was part of a team.

“On the crucial final approach, even with radar assistance you need to take over visually. That’s when having a fellow pilot there was so important.”

I’m finding it hard to make jokes in this post, just because everybody involved is so much more awesome than I could ever hope to be.