Moments after Raymond Cody took flight Tuesday morning, the instrument panel in his cockpit malfunctioned and his navigation system gave out. The pilot, who was flying a single-engine plane across western Colorado to Grand Junction Regional Airport, continued to head toward his original destination, but realized he had no way of notifying airport officials.
So he grabbed his cell phone and dialed the first number he could find for the airport: the Transportation Security Administration's customer service hotline. Fortunately, with the help of a TSA agent and his iPad, the pilot was able to land the plane safely without his on-board electronics, according to The Daily Sentinel.
"The airplane motor wasn't an issue of stopping, it was only the electronics in the airplane. So I had no radio, I had no navigation equipment," Cody recalled to KREX-TV.
Making the call at 8:01 a.m., Cody got in touch with Gene Manzanares, the TSA's master coordination center officer for Grand Junction, and described the emergency situation. Using an iPad app, Cody was able to track his flight path and relay his position to Manzanares, who helped coordinate the landing with the airport's control tower.
After talking on the phone for nearly a half-hour during the emergency call, Cody and Manzanares eventually met in person the following day so Cody could thank the TSA agent.
"Gene's my hero," Cody told KKCO NBC 11 News. "He was real calm, kept me calm, and I do appreciate it."
The Federal Aviation Administration first approved the use of iPads for the pilots with a charter company in February 2011. Pilots are typically required to carry a bag of paper charts and manuals on board, but the FAA's decision had the potential to change how pilots view charts in the air.
After the charter company's successful test period, the FAA extended the iPad option, allowing FAA-authorized operators to use the tablet as an alternative to the paper charts.