- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Off-duty Air Force Capt. Mike Gongol looked at his wife when a flight attendant asked if anyone knew how to fly a plane. She nodded, and Capt. Gongol went on to help save 157 individuals last December after the pilot of his commercial flight had a heart attack at 30,000 feet.

“Does anyone know how to fly a plane?” was the question posed to passengers on December 30 after a Boeing 737 heading from Des Moines, Iowa to Denver unexpectedly descended. The heroics of Capt. Gongol have just been disclosed, the Daily Mail reported Monday of his interview with Air Force Space Command. 

The off-duty pilot, who has flown supersonic aircraft and nuclear bombers, left his wife and kids and went to the front to volunteer to help. The first officer asked him a few quick questions to judge his competency, deemed him the best shot she had at landing the plane safely, and the two began the process together.

When it was apparent that the two would have to land the plane at an Omaha, Nebraska airport, the first officer admitted that she had never performed the task there. Luckily, Capt. Gongol had done so before and began to talk her through the process.

“I saw nothing but the finest professionalism under pressure out of the flight attendants, the nurses and the first officer,” the airmen said, according to the Daily Mail. “Everyone aboard the aircraft remained calm [and] there is no doubt in my mind this contributed above all else to our successful outcome. In my opinion, any military pilot would have done the exact same thing I did.”

The pilot who suffered the heart attack survived and has since thanked Capt. Gongol for his actions, the Daily Mail reported.

• Douglas Ernst can be reached at dernst@washingtontimes.com.

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