Pilot dies mid-flight, plane lands safely in Newark
A veteran Continental Airlines pilot died over the Atlantic Ocean during a flight from Brussels to Newark on Thursday, leaving two co-pilots to take control and safely land the plane while the 247 passengers were unaware of the drama in the cockpit.
The only hint of trouble aboard Flight 61 came when a doctor was summoned over the intercom.
It's scary, but in all honesty, it's kind of good that they didn't tell us, passenger Chris Balchuns, 18, told the New York Times. Everybody kept calm.
The Newark-based pilot, who was 60 and logged 32 years with the airline, died three hours into the 7-1/2-hour flight. A Belgian doctor unsuccessfully tried to revive the man with a defibrillator and declared him dead, according to the Associated Press. Continental Airlines did not release the pilot's name.The pilot likely died of a heart attack, Dr. Julien Struyven told the AP. There was no chance at all of saving him, Struyven said.
The body was placed in a crew rest area for the rest of the flight, a Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman said. A relief pilot was aboard the flight, which is customary during international flights, and took the dead man's place, safely flying the plane with the co-pilot.
The Boeing 777 landed at Newark Liberty Airport at 11:49 a.m., according to Continental Airlines. Emergency equipment was on the runway as a precaution, Port Authority spokesman Steve Coleman said.
An employee of the Essex County medical examiners office boarded the plane, officially declared the pilot dead and removed the body, Coleman said. The New Jersey State Medical Examiners Office did not return a phone call.
The company has been in touch with his family and we extend our deepest sympathies, spokeswoman Kelly Cripe said in a statement.
Another Continental pilot died mid-flight in 2007 during a flight from Houston to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. A co-pilot landed that plane safely after being diverted to south Texas.