17-Year-Old Pilot Successfully Lands Plane on Her Own After Mishap: 'I Just Felt My Heart Sink'
Maggie Taraska had just taken off on her first solo flight in a single-engine Piper PA-28 Warrior when the plane's right main wheel fell off.
Taraska circled the Beverly Regional Airport in Massachusetts for the next half-hour as her flight instructor, John Singleton, and air traffic controllers coached her through what she needed to do.
"You're doing a great job flying the airplane," Singleton is heard saying in a recording of radio transmissions between the plane and the tower. "Keep doing what you're doing. We're gonna take our time here. We've got plenty of time, you've got plenty of fuel, we've got plenty of daylight."
"All right," the teen replies.
With her instructor's guidance, Taraska landed the plane perfectly, walking away unscathed.
"Beautiful job, Maggie!" Singleton says as loud cheers erupt in the background. "You've got a whole bunch of people clapping for you up here."
Taraska told reporters she was initially terrified when she learned the wheel was missing.
"I just felt my heart sink," she said at a press conference Monday.
But she realized she only had one option if she was going to make it through the ordeal.
"I just knew I had to fly the plane," she said. "I panicked a little bit, but you have to have confidence in your ability."