21-year-old pilot Taylor Hash was on only her third solo flight on March 24th when the unthinkable happened: part of her landing gear fell off the plane and tumbled to the earth below.
“It was definitely the scariest moment I’ve had, probably in my life,” Hash told TODAY of the ordeal. She felt panicked as she realized she would have to land her plane without her front wheel, and hurriedly radioed air traffic control for help.
Flying nearby, veteran pilot and former SpaceX executive Chris Yates was astonished when he witnessed Hash’s landing gear fall off her plane. When he heard her transmission to air traffic control, he was struck by the fact that her first name, Taylor, was the same as his daughter’s. Yates immediately felt paternal toward the young pilot, and his dad mode kicked in. So, he says, did his emotions.
“I didn’t respond on the radio because I just couldn’t even talk,” he said. “I was welled up. I was thinking of my daughter and just how afraid and alone [Hash] probably felt,” he told TODAY.
After getting his emotions under control, Yates reached out to Taylor via radio.
“Taylor, this is Chris,” he said. “My daughter’s name is Taylor and I taught her to fly. We’re going to be just fine, kiddo.”
Hash said just those few words of kindness were what she needed to keep her cool.
“You can really tell how my voice went from frantic, ‘What am I going to do?’ to, ‘OK, I can do this,’ and that was 100% all thanks to him,” Hash said of Yates’ introduction.