Pilot carried on flying after thinking co-pilot who suffered cardiac arrest and died was joking around

21 February 2023, 23:46

A pilot who continued to fly after his co-pilot suffered a cardiac arrest and died believed that he was playing a joke, a new safety report has revealed.
A pilot who continued to fly after his co-pilot suffered a cardiac arrest and died believed that he was playing a joke, a new safety report has revealed. Picture: Alamy

By Chris Samuel

A pilot who continued to fly after his co-pilot suffered a cardiac arrest and died believed that he was playing a joke, a new safety report has revealed.

The pilot thought that his colleague was pretending to be asleep and only realised what had happened after the plane had landed.

Following the incident, an investigation was launched by The Air Accidents Investigation Branch.

The report concluded that current medical assessments were acceptable, but found that risks “can never be reduced to zero".

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It stated that the surviving pilot was able to land the plane safely, but noted that on another flight “the outcome could have been different.”

The 57-year-old, who had passed a medical four months before, had agreed to join the short flight on a G-BORL light aircraft around Blackpool Airport in June.

Stock image of airborne light aircraft.
Stock image of airborne light aircraft. Picture: Alamy

A second pilot had been requested for safety reasons due to the windy weather conditions.

The AAIB said the that the pair had been talking normally while the plane was still on the ground, with the report adding that the deceased pilot – who had also worked as a flight instructor – had been his "normal cheerful self and there were no indications that he was feeling unwell".

It continued: "The pilot recalled that shortly after take-off from Runway 28 the instructor's head rolled back.

"The pilot knew the instructor well and thought he was just pretending to take a nap whilst the pilot flew the circuit, so he did not think anything was wrong at this stage.

"He proceeded to fly the aircraft round the circuit. As he turned on to base leg the instructor slumped over with his head resting on the pilot's shoulder.

Blackpool Airport, Lancashire.
Blackpool Airport, Lancashire. Picture: Alamy

"The pilot still thought the instructor was just joking with him and continued to fly the approach."

The plane then “landed normally” before the co-pilot “realised something was wrong”, and signalled to the airport fire crew for help.

A review by the Civil Aviation Authority’s medical department concluded that the deceased pilot had died from a cardiac arrest.

The authority said it continually reviews its health guidances and that the “rarity” of accidents caused by cardiac events in flight "suggests the balance is currently about right.”

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