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13 November 2014

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You are in: North Yorkshire > People > Your stories > Happy return!

Jim O'Neill

Happy return!

Solo pilot, Jim O'Neill, said he had mixed emotions on his return visit to RAF Linton-on-Ouse near York. The last time he came into land at the base he had been temporarily blinded by a stroke and could not see the runway.

Mr O’Neill was flying over North Yorkshire in November 2008 when he thought he had been blinded by the sun, because he was struggling to view the controls of his aircraft.

Controllers at RAF Linton-on-Ouse heard Mr O'Neill's Mayday call and he had to rely on the guidance of Wing Commander Paul Gerrard, who flew alongside him and helped direct him down safely.

RAF Linton-on-Ouse

Jim's Cessna after his assisted landing

It was later revealed his loss of eyesight was due to a stroke. His eyesight is gradually improving and he can now see enough again to get around unaided. He returned to RAF Linton-on-Ouse to thank them and he shared shared his experience of that extraordinary day…

“The controllers were wonderful and just kind of took over. All I had to do was try and do what I was told and then when they offered to send a Tucano up - well, I was overwhelmed. I thought, that's me home and dry.

“It was at the last minute, I’d almost sort of given up.

“It was only when Paul came alongside, even though I couldn’t see him I could follow his instructions and he got me down.

RAF Linton-on-Ouse

Jim flies back into RAF Linton-on-Ouse

“I wasn't panicking at all because I had a job to do, which was to get the plane on the ground.

“I don’t remember any emotions at all. I just remember trying to comply with Paul's instructions. That was my big ambition at that time.

“I saw the runway numbers and they told me where I was in relation to the runway, which was enough for me to get down there.

“The reality of the situation probably didn't sink in till three days later because I had had a stroke.

“I was whisked from the plane into the medical orderly's room and he told me he couldn’t allow me to continue the flight, which I knew because I couldn’t see.

RAF Linton-on-Ouse

Jim is greeted by Wg Cdr Paul Gerrard

“I went to a bed and breakfast and went straight to bed because I kept thinking if I had a good dinner and a good sleep I’d be alright in the morning. But of course I wasn’t alright in the morning.

“When I got back to Colchester they took me to hospital in Romford. So it was probably when I was there I was able to put things together and realise the enormity of the situation.

“I wouldn’t say it was a miracle. There was a lot of skill involved. I think I’ll stay in touch with Paul and the traffic controllers.

“I’ll certainly be flying again; I’m not sure when.”

last updated: 15/05/2009 at 12:11
created: 27/04/2009

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