Pilot of aircraft with 147 passengers died in cockpit
American Airlines has released the name of the pilot who died during a flight from Phoenix to Boston early Monday. The passengers credit the co-pilot for keeping a calm head and getting them into Syracuse without any problems.
Captain Michael Johnston, 57, passed away despite the desperate efforts of a flight attendant with medical training to revive him on flight 550 from Phoenix to Boston after he was taken ill.
147 passengers and five crew members were on board the flight.
The Federal Aviation Administration said seven pilots for United States airlines and one charter pilot have died during flights since 1994.
While the death of a pilot during a flight could raise concern among uneasy fliers, the captain and first officer are each capable of flying commercial airliners alone.
The first officer was tasked with bringing the plane down safely in New York State.
“Medical emergency, captain is incapacitated”, someone in the cockpit told an air traffic controller. “What is important is the consistent result – the plane lands safely”, he said.
Emergencies like this one are the reason the FAA requires two crew members in the cockpit at all times.
As the recording continues, the officer says he is concerned with how quickly the medics could get on board. They were told that the captain was not feeling well and the plane would be diverted.
“This rainbow came out, and the skies opened up as if his spirit was leaving the plane and going to heaven”, Cacciola said.
“Her voice was quivering, so I knew it was way beyond an illness”, passenger Peter McSwiggin told.