At first, Brian can't cope with what has happened. "[H]e could do nothing," the narrator tells us. "It was as if his hands and arms were lead" (2.1).
Then he tries to see if he can help the pilot—he's heard of mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and CPR, but doesn't know how they're done. He touches the pilot on the chest, but the pilot doesn't seem to be breathing at all.
The plane has been flying straight ahead all this time, but now it hits some turbulence and angles downward a little bit. Brian knows that if he doesn't do something, this will cause him to fly straight into the trees below. Not the outcome he's hoping for.
He realizes that he has to somehow fly the plane; the pilot can't help him anymore.
Brian puts his hands on the plane's control wheel and his feet on the rudder pedals. Slowly, piecing together bits of information from things he's read and things the pilot showed him just minutes before, Brian manages to control the plane and pull the nose up a little so it's flying steadily forward. (Yeah, we know—just go with it, okay?) All he can see beneath the plane is an endless forest dotted with tiny lakes.
Looking at the dashboard of the plane, Brian tries to figure out what all the dials and gauges mean.
He notices the radio that the pilot had been trying to use when he collapsed. Brian realizes that he can use the radio to try to call for help. Either that or he can hear some awesome tunes as he plummets to his death.
The pilot is still wearing the radio headset, though. Despite his horror at the prospect of touching the dead pilot, Brian forces himself to take the headset and place it on his own head.
Brian presses in the microphone switch (which he had seen the pilot do) and calls for help. There is no response, and he starts to cry, screaming into the microphone over and over.
Suddenly, he remembers that, in order to hear any response, he needs to release the microphone switch. He does so, and he hears a voice responding to his call. The voice is faint and the message is breaking up, but whoever it is asks Brian to state his difficulty and his location.
Brian responds, telling the speaker what happened, but saying he doesn't know where he is. The voice comes back, fainter than before, asking again for the location. Finally it fades out altogether and Brian can't hear anything more. (Serious Major Tom moment here.)
Frustrated and despairing, Brian keeps trying to raise someone on the radio, but with no success. Time passes, and the plane just keeps flying forward. That's kind of how it works, huh?
Brian realizes that, sooner or later, the plane will run out of fuel. Maybe he should try to land the plane now, he thinks, before that happens. But he can't bring himself to do it. Instead, he just keeps waiting, trying the radio every ten minutes and trying to make a plan of action for when the fuel is gone.
He realizes that he'll have to try to bring the plane down on a lake, because if it goes down in the trees it'll be destroyed and he'll most definitely die. When the plane starts going down, he decides, he'll try to find a lake, push the nose of the plane down to point the plane toward it, and then pull up the nose at the last minute to try to slow the plane down before impact. Brian goes over this plan again and again in his mind, trying to prepare himself.
Suddenly, the plane's engine dies. Brian pushes the nose of the plane down—and throws up.