American Airlines Pilot Dies Mid-Flight

First officer takes over, lands plane
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Oct 5, 2015 1:50 PM CDT
American Airlines Pilot Dies Mid-Flight
American Airlines planes wait on the tarmac at Washington's Reagan National Airport on Saturday, Aug. 15, 2015.   (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Authorities say an American Airlines flight from Phoenix to Boston has been diverted to Syracuse, New York, after the captain became ill and later died. Airline Spokeswoman Andrea Huguely says Flight 550 was diverted shortly after 7am Monday and the first officer safely landed the plane. She confirmed that the flight's captain had died. Details of the medical emergency and the identity of the deceased pilot weren't immediately released. Before the flight landed at Syracuse, the first officer called air traffic control and said "American 550. Medical emergency. Captain is incapacitated." He requested a runway to land and said there were 154 passengers on board. The plane later completed its leg to Boston.

USA Today reports that the incident occurred about four hours into a "red eye" overnight flight. Though the AP reports it wasn't immediately clear when the pilot died, outlets including CNN and ABC News cite airline officials who say he died mid-flight. ABC notes that after calling the tower to report the captain was incapacitated, the first officer also said, "pilot is unresponsive, not breathing." "We landed and had no idea what was going on," one passenger tells NBC News. After boarding the plane that would take them to Boston with a new crew, the passengers were told the pilot had died, so "there was no time to panic when we were on the flight," she says. (Read more American Airlines stories.)

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