The first officer safely lands the plane in Syracuse after his colleague fell ill on an overnight flight to Boston. An American Airlines pilot has died after falling ill on board an overnight flight from Phoenix to Boston.
Airline spokeswoman Michelle Mohr told Sky News that Flight 550 was diverted to Syracuse, New York, on Monday morning after the pilot suddenly “became ill”.
The flight’s first officer requested an emergency landing and safely landed the plane, which was carrying 147 passengers, after telling the control tower in Syracuse: “American 550. Medical emergency. Captain is incapacitated.”
He also expresses concern as to whether medics could get to the aircraft quickly in a recording of his exchange with the air traffic control tower.
The pilot has been identified as 57-year-old Captain Michael Johnston, who lived in West Jordan, Utah.
Passengers on the flight were told the pilot was unwell and it was making an emergency landing. They were told later of his death.
His widow, Betty Jean Johnston, said she had been informed he is thought to have died from a heart attack.
She said he had double heart bypass surgery in 2006 and was in good health.
She told CBS affiliate KUTV: “He has had problems with his heart. He seemed perfectly fine.
“We’ve all been together, just comforting each other, it’s kind of surreal. You just feel numb, it’s not real.
“He’s a pilot, he leaves Sunday night he doesn’t get back until Wednesday, it just feels like he’s on his trip.
“The coroner has called me, he said it was 99.9% positive it was a heart attack.”
American Airlines group chairman and chief executive Doug Parker said the crew “took extraordinary care” of Mr Johnston and the passengers during an “extremely difficult time”.
A statement from the Texas-based airline said: “All of us at American extend our condolences to Mike’s wife, Betty Jean, and to his entire family.
“They have lost a husband and father, and many of you have lost a personal friend.”
A replacement crew was sent to Syracuse and the aircraft, an Airbus A320, landed in Boston later on Monday night.
Airline pilots must pass physical exams every 12 months, and every six months for captains above the age of 40.
Seven pilots for US airlines and one charter pilot have died during flights since 1994, the Federal Aviation Administration said.
Culled from: http://news.sky.com/story/1564371/pilot-died-on-flight-after-heart-attack
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