AN off-duty pilot stepped in to help out in the cockpit after the co-pilot on a transatlantic flight suddenly fell ill.
The plane was forced to declare a medical emergency but a Good Samaritan was among the 264 passengers on board.
Fortunately, the passenger was an off-duty seasoned pilot himself and was a licensed Boeing 767 captain from another airline. He just happened to be travelling on the flight from the USA to Germany. After the pilot declared a medical emergency, the plane – a Boeing 747-400 – diverted to Dublin where it landed safely.
But as it flew over the Atlantic, the co-pilot suddenly fell ill with a suspected severe migraine and the pilot asked for permission to divert to Dublin.
A Lufthansa spokesman said rules for normal flight conditions meant that only licensed crew were permitted in the cockpit but in an emergency situation "things are slightly different".
"In such a situation the pilot could have secured the assistance of one of the cabin crew but in this case there was a licensed pilot on board," he said.
As the captain flew the plane, the off-duty pilot, who normally flies with a North American carrier, helped out by reading through the various checklists in preparation for landing.
"This is a viable procedure in such a very rare situation," the Lufthansa spokesman said.
While emergency services were put on standby at Dublin airport, the jumbo made a normal landing at around 5.40am on Monday and the ill co-pilot was taken by ambulance to Beaumont Hospital.
Officials from the Air Accident Investigation Unit of the Department of Transport attended the plane after touchdown. A spokesperson said the matter was being investigated, with a report to be issued "in due course".
Another crew was flown in from Germany, and the flight continued its journey to Frankfurt after a six-hour delay.