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Flight attendant lands jetliner safely

June 16, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
A flight attendant on a plane out of San Francisco this week went above and beyond her call of duty. She helped land the plane, stepping in when the co-pilot became sick.It's almost assumed most flight attendants do not know how to fly planes. But on this flight, there were two flight attendants with pilot licenses.

So when the co-pilot got sick, the woman with the most amount of experience stepped in just before the American Airlines flight landed in Chicago.

American Airlines flight attendant Patti DeLuna, 61, came to work this week ready to work serving Champagne in the first-class galley, but little did she know that once in the air she was actually going to help land a plane.

Flight 1612 was just a few hours away from landing at Chicago's O'Hare Airport from San Francisco International Airport Monday when the co-pilot suddenly got sick.

The captain quickly checked to see if there were any pilots on board. Turns out the only person with a commercial pilot's license was DeLuna.

DeLuna says it had been 15 years since she had flown a plane. But once in the cockpit she says it was like riding a bike.

DeLuna set the plane's instruments, checked speeds and eventually lowered the landing gear and flaps.

Experts say because Boeing 767s have an autopilot function, the captain could have landed by himself, but it wouldn't have been safe.

Flight 1612 arrived on time at O'Hare Airport Monday afternoon.

DeLuna says she'll be keeping her day job, even though it was quite a thrill sitting up front once again.

"When you're a pilot, you never get past that excitement of being behind the stick," said DeLuna.

DeLuna said she got her pilot's license in Southern California, flying mostly out of Burbank and Santa Monica airports. She said, though, that Boeing 767 was definitely the largest plane she's ever flown.


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