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Pilot boyfriend uses fake plane emergency over Chicago to propose


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Updated: October 30, 2012 6:05AM

It was a marriage proposal prank that could have gone down in flames.

Last February, pilot Ryan Thompson, during a sightseeing flight over the city in a small plane, told his girlfriend the aircraft controls were not responding, before he revealed it was all part of a ruse to ask for her hand in marriage.

“At that moment, I genuinely thought something was wrong with the plane, and that we were going to crash,” said Carlie Kennedy, 28, a surgery resident at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.

Kennedy apparently harbors no ill will because she said yes to the proposal.

“I was never angry, not even for a second,” Kennedy said Friday.

The couple, who live in River North, recently posted a video of the event — made with a hidden camera inside the four-seater aircraft — on YouTube.

The video, which has several captions and music, but otherwise no audio, shows the couple taking off under a brilliant blue sky for their pre-Valentine’s Day flight from Chicago Executive Airport. They’re smiling at each other, and taking pictures inside the cockpit. But at some point, the aircraft appears to shake and lose altitude. The panicked look on Kennedy’s face says it all.

“Let’s just say her dad cannot watch the video with that look on her face,” Kennedy’s mother, Sherri Kennedy, told the Chicago Sun-Times on Friday.

Thompson, a commercial airline pilot based in the city, then asks his girlfriend to remain calm and read the emergency checklist card. The video camera catches Thompson grinning secretly to himself.

But the checklist was part of something Thompson had been planning for a couple of months.

It included the instruction: “Pilot in command. Determine if he is a good mate. Note: he will always love and honor you.”

Meanwhile, Thompson secretly reaches for a ring in his pocket.

The last command on the checklist card reads, of course, “Will you marry me?”

Kennedy’s look of horror is replaced with a big smile. She says yes. They kiss. The plane lands safely.

Thompson, 31, said Friday that the couple was never in any danger.

“I started a descent,” he said. “It was just maybe the equivalent of hitting a light pocket of turbulence. ... It just got a little worry out of Carlie. It was pretty funny.”

Thompson said he considered other pop-the-question pranks before settling on the airborne one.

“I’d considered faking a medical emergency and going into the hospital,” Thompson said. “I figured that might cause too big an uproar for her work.”

So what do they have planned for the wedding? There’s no date yet, but Thompson has scrapped one idea — saying “I do” just before the newlyweds jump out of an airplane.

“I told him, and my mom told him, no more surprises for now,” Kennedy said.

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