Air traffic controllers help save pilot after Mayday call

Commodore Jeremy Rigby, commander of Portsmouth Naval Base, with HMS Queen Elizabeth - the navy's newest aircraft carrier - in the background

Naval base chief enjoying his Royal visitor

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AIR traffic controllers at Swanwick came to the rescue of a panicked pilot over the north Atlantic.

The team from the distress and diversion cell received the urgent mayday call from the solo pilot, who was flying his Cessna light aircraft on Monday.

The aircraft had been cruising from Blackpool to Iceland when it developed an oil pressure problem.

Flight Sergeant Jay Ferguson said: ‘The pilot declared a mayday and turned around for Stornoway on the Isle of Harris, over 90 miles away.

‘‘I may have to ditch in the sea,’’ said the pilot, who was concerned that the engine might seize.’

The Swanwick team used radar to help locate the struggling plane.

Controllers then contacted the Coastguard aeronautical rescue and co-ordination centre in Fareham to scramble the search-and-rescue helicopter from Stornoway towards the stricken Cessna.

The crew also diverted an RAF Typhoon fighter near Inverness to come to the stricken plane’s aid.

The fighter jet remained near the Cessna to provide ‘top cover’ in case the pilot was forced to ditch his plane in the sea. The Cessna eventually landed safely at Stornoway airport.