Pilot Taylor Hash was feeling “frantic” when she was informed that a critical piece of her landing gear had fallen off her single-engine plane during her third solo flight.
Hash, 21, was imagining how she was going to survive an emergency landing on Friday at a small airport in Pontiac, Michigan, when the soothing voice of a stranger came on her radio. It turned out to be just what she needed to help get her to safety.
Veteran pilot Chris Yates was flying nearby when he saw pieces of landing gear detach from Hash’s plane in mid-air and go bouncing down the runway. She would have to land without a front tire.
“I was thinking of my daughter and just how afraid and alone (Hash) probably felt,” Yates told NBC News correspondent Gadi Schwartz on "TODAY" on Wednesday.
The control tower apprised Hash of the situation.
“It was definitely the scariest moment I’ve had, probably in my life,” Hash said.
Their interview on "TODAY" marked the first time the two have actually seen each other, as Yates was in the middle of a flight when Hash had to make her landing.
Yates, the former director of aviation at SpaceX, could hear the anxiety in Hash’s voice when she asked over the radio if she should treat this as a normal soft field landing.
The veteran pilot and the flight controller told Hash to circle the field until she was ready to land, which gave Yates time to help settle her nerves. When Hash told him her first name is Taylor, which is his daughter’s name, he became emotional.
“I didn’t respond on the radio because I just couldn’t even talk,” he said. “I was welled up.”
However, he quickly settled down to do his best to guide her to safety.
“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.”
“Thank you very much,” she replied.
Just those few words were enough to help Hash rein in her panic.
“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,” Hash said.
Yates asked if Hash was going to become a career pilot, and she joked that she was “planning on it.”
“This is a good start,” he said. “This is a good story to your legacy, kid.”
Yates then helped guide her until the critical moment when she safely made an emergency landing.
“Atta kid! Nice job!” he said over the radio. “There she comes, the nose is going to come down. You’re OK, you’re OK, you’re OK. Talk to me, kid.”
“I’m good,” she replied. “I’m all good.”
“Atta girl, I’m proud of you!” Yates said.
That sounded like the best “atta girl” Hash had ever heard.
“As soon as he said that, he goes, ‘I’m proud of you,’ the waterworks came,” Hash said.
“You can hear my voice change,” Yates said. “I was crying, too.”
The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating the mishap, which Hash said has not dissuaded her from wanting to become a professional pilot. She figures if she can handle that situation, she can handle anything else that goes wrong on a future flight.
Hash and Yates also credit the controller in the tower, who allowed Yates to speak with Hash throughout the flight.
The two are now making plans to meet up and go flying together.