A pilot of an American Airlines fell ill and died on the plane heading to Boston forcing it to make an emergency landing with 147 passengers onboard.
The news was broken by an aviation official who said that on Monday morning the co-pilot of the plane had taken charge and made an emergency landing as the captain became incapacitated.
The aircraft which landed safely at the Syracuse Hancock International Airport shortly after 7 am was an Airbus A320 and was en route from Phoenix to Boston, when it had to be diverted to Syracuse in response to the emergency.
An official statement was issued later by the American Airlines, which said:
“Unfortunately, our pilot passed away, we are incredibly saddened by this event, and we are focused on caring for our pilot’s family and colleagues.”
Though, the airline made the statement announcing the pilot’s death, they initially had declined to release the name or any other detail about the pilot.
Following the death, many known news networks identified the pilot to be 57-year-old Michael Johnston, who apparently suffered a heart attack.
Though his body has been sent for an autopsy, preliminary toxicology tests showed that the death was the “result of natural diseases”. His wife later revealed that he had a double bypass surgery back in 2006.
Though such incidents are rare, it is not unheard of. The pilots are set to go though regular medical and fitness tests every year, and twice a year if they are over 40.
Back in 2009, a Continental Airlines airliner too had to make an emergency landing at the Newark Liberty International Airport after its 60-year-old captain had died of a heart attack.
Two months before this episode, a passenger had to land a privately operated twin-engine plane at Southwest Florida International Airport when the pilot had died shortly after take-off. The passenger was a trainee pilot and had saved four lives in that incident.