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Home > Emergencies > What happens when a pilot suffers a heart attack in the air?
What happens when a pilot suffers a heart attack in the air?
Flying - Emergencies
Tuesday, 11 December 2007 21:41

Pilots and heart attacks

All co-pilots have been trained to handle such an emergency as part as their normal duties besides assisting the Captain. In fact, they are taught to take over at the most critical stage of the flight, usually during automatic landing in bad weather when a Captain becomes incapacitated just before touch down. This is especially so when he fails to respond to a pre-planned check list response. There are special procedures to recognize an incapacitation at these critical moment. The co-pilot would automatically take over when certain stipulated responses are not forthcoming below certain critical heights from 500 to 200 feet above ground level. The reason is that it would be too late to clarify whether it was alright with him. Abort the landing first nd find out the cause when the airplane is at a safe altitude later! So stringent procedures are there to take care of pilot incapacitation.

It is not a major problem when a co-pilot lands the aircraft if the Captain has a heart attack. He has been thoroughly trained to do so at any time. It is not to say that it would be easy, for he has to work extra hard alone to land the airplane safely. If the Captain slump over and obstruct the flying controls, the co-pilot would usually seek the assistant of the flight attendants to secure the incapacitated Captain firmly to the seat with his safety belts. If he has difficulty in landing the airplane, he would just press a button, known as a TOGA (take off go around) switch, on the flying control column and the aircraft would abort the landing. The airplane would execute a go around automatically and climb to a safe altitude, giving the copilot a chance to sort out the situation before attempting another safe landing.

There have been many cases where the Captain was incapacitated and the copilot was able to land the aircraft successfully. One incident involved a hijack attempt in Japan Airlines recently where the Captain was killed by the hijacker and the copilot landed the aircraft without any problem.

Pilot suffers heart attack in flight!

Taipeh, Mon. - A China Airlines pilot suffered a heart attack today en route to Vietnam, forcing the co pilot to abort the flight and make a quick turnaround back to Taipeh.

Captain G.I Gueorguiev, 45, lost consciousness about 40 minutes after Flight CI 652 took off for Ho Chi Minh City, so 27 years old co pilot Lin Hsin took control and landed the plane safely, company spokesman Scott Shih said.

None of the 259 passengers were injured, and the Airbus A300-600 took off again by late morning with a new pilot at the controls.

Gueorguiev, a Bulgarian, was immediately sent to hospital and "showed no signs of life", although doctors did not immediately pronounce him dead, Shih said. Doctors said the pilot had a heart attack. - AP.

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