Rookie pilot Taylor Hash was only on her third solo flight, when air control contacted her to let her know what the front tire of her landing gear had broken off while the single-engine plane was in the air.
Veteran pilot Chris Yates, who previously worked as the director of aviation and Elon Musk’s SpaceX, was prepping his plane at the airport in Pontiac, Michigan, that Hash had taken off from, when he saw the tire plunge from her plane and bounce down the runway.
Yates called in the situation to the air controller, who informed Hash of the scary predicament.
“You lost your front nose gear tire,” they told her over the radio. “The front wheel assembly is on the runway.”
The rookie pilot nervously asked if she should remain in her flight pattern, when Yates called her directly to guide her through the landing.
“It was definitely the scariest moment I’ve had, probably in my life,” the 21-year-old said in an interview.
When he asked for her name, and she told him what it was, Yates said he got emotional because his daughter shares the same first name.
“I didn’t respond on the radio because I just couldn’t even talk,” he explained in an interview with Today. “I was welled up.”
Despite the emotional pause, he quickly pulled it together and did his best to soothe the novice aviator.
“Taylor, this is Chris,” he said. “My daughter’s name is Taylor and I taught her to fly. We’re going to be just fine, kiddo.”
Hash said that Yates was able to calm her down while she circled the airport, by making small talk about her aspirations to be a career pilot.
“You can really tell how my voice went from frantic, ‘What am I going to do?’ to, ‘OK, I can do this,’ and that was 100% all thanks to him,” she remarked.
“Just having someone to have a conversation with me and not be so, I guess, official with the aviation language was just calming.”
“It was exactly what I needed in that moment,” the young pilot told Fox 2 Detroit.
When he asked how she was doing, Hash said that she was “doing okay,” but wanted the experience to be done with, and he calmly responded, “It’s gonna be over and it’s going to be fine.”
As Hash prepared to bring the plane down, Yates talked her through the final descent and touchdown.
“I like it, right there with good attitude,” he said as she reached the runway. “Hold it, hold it, gentle. Now she’s down. There you go, kiddo.”
As Hash touched the back wheels to the runway, he told her to pull the “stick back gently,” while the front of the plane was coming down.
The single-engine starter plane wobbled back and then tipped forward, which caused the nose to grind along the tarmac for several yards.
“You’re okay, you’re okay,” he reassured, then prompted, “Talk to me kid.”
Hash said that she was “all good,” and Yates told her how proud he was that she stuck the landing, which made her cry.
“As soon as he said that, he goes, ‘I’m proud of you,’ the waterworks came,” Hash remarked.
“You can hear my voice change,” Yates said about the audio in the viral clip. “I was crying, too.”
Despite the harrowing incident, rookie pilot still plans to pursue a professional flying career. She and Yates plan to take a flight together sometime soon.
“Those couple minutes were intense, you know, [because] that’s my most important landing to date,” Hash said. “And probably will be my most important landing ever.”