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Columbus air traffic controller to be honored for saving pilot's life

(WSYX-WTTE)

An air traffic controller who works at Port Columbus will be honored with saving a pilot's life after the pilot ran out of fuel during flight.

David Kilgus is a 23-year veteran air traffic controller. He kept the pilot calm during a challenging half hour guiding him to a safe landing.

Port Columbus averages about 800 to 900 flights any given day. One last March stands out to Kilgus, moreover the words uttered by the pilot.

"Sir I just ran out of gas I think I ran out of gas," said the pilot flying a Piper Comanche from Guatemala.Not only was it raining, but Kilgus was up against a language barrier. "At one point he did tell me 'hey keep a good eye on me' so I think he was concerned," said Kilgus.

Kilgus says it happens but not often.

"You do run your share of emergencies, nothing quite like this for me. This was my first where hey I'm out of gas I'm in trouble here," said Kilgus.

Trouble started with his original destination of Lancaster. "A missed approach the weather wasn't either good enough or his equipment didn't get him low enough below the clouds to land safely," said Kilgus.

Kilgus stepped in to help bring the plane to Columbus, but changed plans since Rickenbacker wasn't busy at all. The pilot was four miles out when the flight took a heart-pumping turn.

"He said he just ran out of gas," said Kilgus. He was too far out to glide.

Kilgus watched the radar while keeping his cool and the pilot calm. "Keep him going hey it's going to be okay reassuring him," said Kilgus.

The pilot switched tanks just seconds later.

"Okay I just changed fuel I got it going again," said the pilot.

Kilgus says the pilot probably thinks he's a hero. He doesn't and says while this flight was his focus, it's a team effort to make sure the friendly skies are safe too.

"We come in here we do our jobs that's what I was doing my job," said Kilgus.

The National Air Traffic Controllers Association will honor Kilgus with an Archie League Medal of Safety next week in Las Vegas. Kilgus says he was nominated by his peers.

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