Air-taxi pilot passes out, pax lands 402

 - March 26, 2008, 10:44 AM

The pilot of a Cape Air Cessna 402 lost consciousness during a scheduled flight from Martha’s Vineyard to Hyannis, Mass., on February 8, forcing a Cape Air security trainer on board to take the controls and make a gear-up landing in Provincetown, Mass. The pilot, Ronald Crews, 50, roughly 10 months ago voluntarily removed himself from duty just as he prepared to take off on another flight from Martha’s Vineyard. He subsequently took a medical leave of absence and returned to work about two months ago.

The security trainer, 24-year-old Melanie Oswalt, who is also a student pilot, took over the controls after Crews became disoriented and the airplane began wandering off course. At that point Crews had already flown halfway across Nantucket Sound, then east to Chatham, and finally turned north toward Provincetown. Scheduled to last only 15 min, the flight turned into an hour-long ordeal, leaving Oswalt and three Cape Air revenue passengers severely shaken but unharmed.

In 1985 the FAA revoked Crews’ pilot certificate for knowingly transporting illegal drugs on an airplane. A Cape Air employee for more than four years, Crews now faces the scrutiny of an FAA investigation related to this latest incident.