The Sixth Passenger: A Real-Life Drama

The flight was doomed. Countless instrument flights are made around the world every day without incident. The state-of-the art aviation equipment and technology make most flights by instruments, that is a flight without visibility outside the aircraft, routine. The Sixth Passenger is an exception. The sudden loss of all communication and navigation capability rendered the light, five-passenger aircraft helpless while flying in dense clouds at an altitude of five thousand feet. As long as the pilot maintained the heading and altitude published on the aeronautical chart he was using, he could keep the aircraft free of obstacles and safely above the mountaintops. Fuel supply was seldom a problem on instrument flights; however, it eventually became a major factor. The plane's three-fuel tanks were all flashing "Empty." Repetitious Mayday calls by the pilot all proved futile as he sought assistance from air traffic control. The pilot could not see or been seen nor could he hear or be heard. He needed a miracle to get down safely. When everything looked hopeless, the sixth passenger appeared.

--John Whalen