Woman, 80, successfully lands plane on low fuel; husband dies

Woman, 80, successfully lands plane on low fuel; husband dies

By The Associated Press & Matt Montgomery. CREATED Apr 3, 2012 - UPDATED: Apr 3, 2012

STURGEON BAY- The son of an 80-year-old woman says she knew her husband had died after he fell unconscious at the controls of a small plane, yet she remained calm as she landed the aircraft at a northeastern Wisconsin airport.

Talking to the Associated Press exclusively in a telephone interview Tuesday, James Collins said he's also a pilot and that he helped his mother Helen Collins via radio as the plane ran out of gas Monday evening.  Another pilot took to the skies to guide her to the ground.

Collins says his mother learned to take off and land about 30 years ago at her husband's urging, in case something happened to him.  She has flown hundreds of hours by his side.

Collins' 81-year-old husband, John, was pronounced dead at a hospital.

"It is a small miracle that this lady was able to get the airplane back on the ground wihtout hurting herself," said flight instructor, EAA member and president of the Cub Association Steve Krog to Wisconsin's Afternoon News with John Mercure.  "This lady has a backbone like you wouldn't believe."

Krog said landing a plane is the most difficult part of flying and he gave Helen Collins a lot of credit for keeping her emotions in check when the plane lost one engine before she landed it safely.