11:41 AM EDT, June 5, 2014
Crisis in mid air. The captain has suffered a heart attack!
So, where do the flight attendants turn for help? To the passengers.
It happened on board a United Airlines flight from Des Moines to Denver. Just 20 minutes after take-off, the captain suddenly fell ill and a call went out over the P.A. system that no passenger ever wants to hear: "Are there any pilots on board?"
It was an extraordinary announcement, rarely heard in the annals of aviation history.
Remember the scene from the classic movie Airplane where the announcement was made, "Is there anyone on board who can fly a plane?"
But this was no joke!
Mark Gongol was sitting in the back of the plane. He stood up and offered to help in this moment of crisis.
Gongol told INSIDE EDITION, "My first thought was, 'Holy cow, this isn't happening.' I said I'm an Air Force pilot. What can I do to help?' "
Watch INSIDE EDITION's Interview with Mark Gongol
Lucky for everyone, Gongol is a captain with the Iowa Air National Guard. He took the captain's seat and went to work. While the first officer took control of the plane, Gongol communicated with air traffic control.
"Patient situation has worsened. Need medical assistance ASAP," Gongol reported to air traffic control.
Linda Alweiss, a nurse from Los Angeles, was also on the flight. She helped stabilize the stricken captain.
Alweiss told INSIDE EDITION, "We put him down in the galley. Another nurse came up to help. He was white and he was sweating profusely. Pretty scared."
Meanwhile, Gongol and the first officer made an emergency landing in Omaha. As the plane touched down, the 150 grateful passengers on board broke into applause. A tribute to a humble hero pilot and a nurse, who didn't hesitate to answer a call to action.
"I was in the same boat too. So, I was in the boat and had a paddle so I may have offered to help row," said Gongol.