A pilot died en-route onboard American Airlines Flight 550 from Phoenix to Boston on Monday. The flight left Phoenix few minutes after midnight and was instead diverted to Syracuse in the wakes of the pilot’s death. The passengers were told that the pilot was sick and were only informed about his death upon landing. The plane was carrying 147 passengers and 5 members of the crew. The name of the pilot had not been released.
According to the transcript of the co-pilot’s radio communication, which was obtained by WCVB, the plane had to be diverted to Syracuse because of a medical emergency involving the captain being incapacitated. The co-pilot requested handling for runway.
Spokeswoman for American Airlines, Andrea Huguely, told the Associated Press that when the captain fell ill, the first officer took over the plane. Aviation experts who spoken with AP were one in saying that passengers’ lives were not put in danger in the incident since captains and co-pilots are equally skilled in flying.
“The passengers were not in danger, absolutely not,” former pilot John Cox told AP. Cox explained that the co-pilot can rely on the planes’ automated systems when the captain becomes incapacitated. In such cases, the plane will be prioritized by air traffic controllers.
James Record, a teacher in aviation at Dowling College, told AP that captains and co-pilots take turns during takeoffs, flying and landings in order for the co-pilot to be trained in the same capacity to that of the captain. Record has heard the transcript of the call made by the American Airlines co-pilot and has noted the composure in his voice. His calmness during the call indicates that he can fly the plane, Record said. “He was doing what he’s trained to do – fly the plane. He was probably more concerned with the health of his buddy, his crew member,” record told AP.