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Passenger lands plane when professor piloting Cirrus SR20 suffers medical emergency

A passenger took control of a Cirrus SR20 (N170PG) on Sunday after the pilot suffered a medical emergency, landing the plane at the Raleigh-Durham International Airport (RDU) on a secondary runway near the general aviation terminal. The pilot, renowned Duke professor Joseph Izatt, passed away. ABC11 reported that Izatt was flying the plane on Sunday, taking off around 3:30 p.m. and coming back around 4:50 p.m. RDU told ABC11 that the passenger took over after the pilot "slumped over the controls." After landing, Izatt was transported to the hospital, People reported. The type of medical emergency the pilot experienced and the passenger's identity have not been disclosed at the time of publication. WRAL News reported that the plane was registered to Izatt and Coherent Aviation, based in Raleigh. Evan Caulfield, who was dropping his daughter off at the airport for a commercial flight, captured the commotion on his cellphone, showing multiple ambulances on the runway. "I've heard of so many of those types of things happening, and he was lucky that he had a passenger that was able to land the plane," Caulfield said to Fox 8 News. "There are emergencies all the time and things people can do to help protect themselves. Even in a plane, have a copilot or someone that knows how to fly a plane. It's important for people to know what's going on and the heroic efforts of EMS and fire and police." Duke University released a statement on Monday, confirming the loss of Michael J. Fitzpatrick Professor of Engineering and chair of the Department of Biomedical Engineering. Izatt joined Duke in 2001 and is remembered as a dedicated professor and pioneer researcher. He was a skilled researcher and inventor, playing a pivotal role in the development of optical coherence tomography. This is a non-invasive medical imaging technique that uses optical interferometry to look through layers of soft tissue, like the retina at the back of the eye, providing detailed images to guide diagnosis and treatment decisions.RELATED STORY:Passenger crash-lands Piper Meridian after pilot suffers medical emergency "He was an exceptionally thoughtful leader who weighed every decision with a care that originated with his deep love for the BME community," Pratt School Dean Jerome Lynch said. "The integrity and humility he brought as a school leader will be missed." Duke lowered flags on campus in Izatt's honor. WRAL News said that Izatt leaves behind a wife and three children. "The loss of Professor Izatt leaves us and the Pratt community with a profound sense of sorrow as his dedication to his family, students, faculty and staff were the hallmarks of who he was as a person," Dean Lynch said. "I am especially saddened to have lost a school leader who proudly led with his heart and who cared so deeply for the members of the BME and Pratt community."
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