Air traffic controller awarded for helping pilot land

by: Tony Thomas Updated:

John Luckett

ATLANTA,None - A veteran metro Atlanta Air Traffic Controller has won one of his union's biggest awards for his actions during an aircraft emergency last November.

Alvin Kent was handed an Archie League award by the National Air Traffic Controllers Association at its annual meeting Wednesday in Atlanta.

He was honored for his ability to guide down Ocala, Florida-based pilot John Luckett when the engine of Luckett's single engine Cessna cut out during a flight over rural Alabama.

"All the sudden my plane went, pumph, pup, pup, pup and my engine quit," Luckett said as he prepped his plane at the Ocala airport Wednesday.

At 5,000 feet in the air, Luckett said he had few options.So he radioed for help.

Air Traffic Control tapes recorded his conversation with Kent.

Luckett: "813 H-Y, got an emergency here, got an engine going out."

Kent : "The Pine Hill (Municipal) Airport is at 12 o'clock in about five minutes, do you got that much time?"

Neither Kent nor Luckett knew if he'd make it.

What many people are finding amazing is the fact the Pine Hill Airport is basically abandoned. Kent said he never even had heard of a plane coming in or out of the airport.

But it was on his maps, and he quickly recognized it was Luckett's only chance for survival.

"And I start looking at the maps and yelling 'I've got an emergency,'" Kent said.

On the recording of the incident, Luckett is heard saying : "This is very bad, I don't see the airport, about five minutes?"

But after a few tense moments, Luckett lands safely.

Luckett: "N813HY: Atlanta, Skyhawk is on the ground at Pine Hill, sir."

Kent and Luckett have never spoken in person.

"I'd like to know that guy's name and give him a hug and tell him, 'Thank you so much. Thank you, thank you, thank you.' I'm getting a little emotional here," Luckett said.

Action News Reporter Tony Thomas showed Luckett's comments to Kent Wednesday evening.

"I was just glad I could help." Kent replied. "When you're in the middle of it you try not to think that that's a person, you're trying to think, 'That's my job.'"

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