Wednesday 29 January 2020

Passenger helps land plane after co-pilot falls ill

Fergus Black

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.

Lufthansa flight LGH403 with 264 passengers on board left Newark shortly after 11pm on Sunday night for Frankfurt.

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.

Irish Independent

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