The crew of a United Airlines flight were forced to make an emergency landing after its pilot suffered an ultimately fatal heart attack, airport officials said.
The plane, which was carrying 161 passengers from Houston to Seattle, was diverted to Boise, Idaho while two doctors on board attempted CPR in the first-class cabin.
Firefighters and paramedics ran to the aid of pilot Henry Skillern, who was still alive when the plane landed on Thursday night, but he later died in hospital at Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center.
An off-duty United Airlines pilot who happened to be on board the flight assisted the first officer - who is also a trained pilot - in landing the plane.
Passengers said the flight attendants had dealt with the incident well, with one travellers telling a Seattle TV station: “They kept themselves calm. They kept it professional. There was no panic on the plane.”
A Boise airport spokesman told the Associated Press that it is rare for such a serious malady to strike midflight as pilots undergo obligatory regular medical screening.
Skillern, who had worked for United Airline for 26 years, was 63 years old. In 2007, the mandatory pilot retirement age was raised from 60 to 65.