A flight instructor who helped a passenger land a plane after the pilot was taken ill said the man performed a "beautiful landing".
Roy Murray said he was surprised just how calm the man he knew only as John was as he brought the aircraft down at Humberside Airport, near Grimsby, north Lincolnshire, last night.
The man landed the plane in the dark without lights.
The pilot was later pronounced dead.
Mr Murray said he was called in by air traffic controllers after a mayday call from the Cessna 172 light aircraft as it was heading back to its base at Sandtoft airfield, near Doncaster, South Yorkshire, at 6.20pm.
He said the novice flyer did four circuits of the airport before landing at 7.30pm.
"He did a beautiful landing," Mr Murray said.
"I wouldn't be frightened to fly with him."
Mr Murray, who has more than 30 years of flying experience, said: "I feel satisfied but sad. It could have been a lot worse."
Asked how he felt after the landing, he said: "Ecstatic. Very relieved but also sad."
Mr Murray, who is chief instructor at the Frank Morgan School of Flying, said he had never heard of an incident like this in the UK.
He said he was called at his home near Grimsby at 6.25pm and went to the tower at the airport, where the decision was taken to use the main runway which was "lit up like a Christmas tree" as it was getting dark.
"I took him round three times," the instructor said, "which were reasonable but not good enough to land.
"Then, on the fourth, he made a nice landing."
Mr Murray said the atmosphere in the control tower was tense and there were handshakes but no cheers when the plane touched down.
"It was tense at times, especially the last mile or so," he said.
"We couldn't see any lights on him.
"It was just a silhouette in the dark. We just had to judge he was the right height and the right speed, which he was. All due respect."
Mr Murray went on: "He seemed quite calm.
"He said he had a dry mouth, as we all had. But he's done a good job."
He said he was surprised just how calm the man was and how he was not panicking.
"I suppose I would be if I was in that position," he said.
"It's difficult at night with lights - pe rceptions are altogether different."
Asked how he felt now, he said: "Satisfied but sad. There was a death involved. But satisfied because it could have been a lot worse."
A full emergency response was put in place by the airport in conjunction with all the services.
An RAF Sea King helicopter from RAF Leconfield was also brought in to help the first-time pilot find the airport and the runway.
The plane took off from the airstrip at Sandtoft, which is about 20 miles away from where it landed, yesterday morning.
It had been flying around the area all day when the emergency began.
Air traffic controllers decided to route the plane to Humberside Airport as it had the full emergency services response available on site.
The plane is understood to have undergone only minor damage to its wheel, although some witnesses described seeing sparks as the aircraft touched down.
Humberside Police confirmed the pilot was pronounced dead after landing.
A spokesman said: " Police are not treating the death as suspicious and, as such, a file will be prepared for the coroner in order to establish what led to the death of the pilot by way of an inquest.
"Formal ID of the pilot is likely to take place later today."
At press conference, airport commercial director Paul Litten expressed his condolences to the family of the man who died.
Mr Litten said all the emergency services worked well together.
Debbie Zost, operations managers at the airport in charge of air traffic control, said an investigation was under way and it was not yet possible to say which of the men in the plane made the mayday call.
A friend of the two men in the plane told BBC Radio Sheffield the passenger was "nothing short of a hero".
Richard Tomlinson said: " For somebody who is not a pilot but has been around airfields and been a passenger on several occasions to take control is nothing short of phenomenal.
"The man is nothing short of a hero."
He said the man who died was a very experienced pilot.
Mr Tomlinson said: " Only this week I was sat having a cup of tea and airfield banter (with both men).
"They were both very funny gentlemen to have a conversation with.
"It is very, very sad news."
Passenger John Wildey described how he landed the plane with a "right bump", telling BBC News it was like a "controlled crash, really".
He added he could not reach the brakes at first and did not think he was going to make it.