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BREAKING: AA Flight 550 Diverts, Pilot passes away InFlight

American Airlines red-eye flight 550 from Phoenix, AZ to Boston, MA diverted to Syracuse, NY this morning at 7:11am because one of the pilots passed away InFlight. Initial reports say indicate that the pilot that passed was the Captain on board. We’re hearing that one of the flight attendants crewed to work flight 550 was a nurse, tried, but sadly wasn’t able to save him. We will update this post with more information as we obtain it. ( More...

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Audio archive is available over at 11:00UTC on 10/5 is the archive needed for KSYR Tower/Appch. AAL 550 first contact is within a minute or two of the clip starting. PF first priority is getting his colleague help. Repeatedly asks tower if ARFF is prepared to expeditiously remove the incapacitated pilot from the aircraft. Emergency well handled by all. Thoughts and prayers with the crew.
Bill Harris 2
Audio of comms with Boston Center sector controller is archived at AAL550 calls in a bit past 20 minutes into the segment, hand-off to SYR approach completed about 1:15 from the segment end.
Matt West 0
Interestingly enough though, the FO uses the CACTUS call sign initially before ATC corrects him with American. I'm sure the stress of the situation probably caused it.
They fly into KALB and still use cactus, maybe they just can't let the call sign go..
It was a PHX based flight crew, former home of Cactus. I wish my favorite hometown airline America West, when they purchased US Air, then American, kept the old name. I get it from a marketing stand point why they switched to US Air then American.

Could also be a union pride thing. America West and US Air didn't share the same union, and there was tons of tension between flight crews in the beginning of the merger.
Dan Anderson 13
On a positive note, at least the Captain was most likely doing what he loved when he died!
Matt Kladder 3
I cannot speak from experience, but witnessing someone pass away would be incredibly difficult. Then, add to that a plane full of passengers to get on the ground, and the FO sounds as calm as if he was on vacation. Commendable. Condolences to the family of the captain.
djames225 3
I agree with you 110% Mike and a thumbs up...people yakking "I dont know why all the media attention... the first officer should be able to fly the plane" dont stop to think he is sitting beside a collegue and perhaps a very good friend and he just witnessed his passing away..add that to being calm enough to converse with ATC, to fly and to land the craft and at same time probably of assistance to the nurse who tried valiantly to revive thoughts and prayers to the captains family and to the crew and passengers of that flight.
cutler boughn 3
The pilots wife reports that he had ongoing heart issues and had a double-bypass in 2006. I understand that he had physicals performed every 6 months to make sure he was fit to fly, but are there not policies in place to keep someone with a very serious heart issue, out of the cockpit???

I understand that medically, things can just "happen", i get that, but someone with a serious heart issue that at one point, required heart surgery, I would classify as a bit more than just a "rare" issue...

Rest in peace to the pilot and my condolences are with his family and the entire AA crew at this tough time.
Loral Thomas 5
I'm sure the FAA had this pilot jumping through hoops every 6 months to renew his 1st class medical. He obviously passed all their requirements. How many people have had double bypass and lived a long and productive life? The surgery fixes the problem. The FAA makes sure its fixed. No issue here.

Now if the media would only learn that the "co-pilot" actually does fly the plane, usually every other leg, maybe they would stop calling it a "miracle" that he was able to land the plane safely. So, so disgusted with the media hype!!!!!
joel wiley 1
Heart disease can be devoid of symptoms
joel wiley 1
(Fumble fingered)
Heart disease symptoms may be absent or missed.Consider Jim Fixx, distance runner and icon of the running community, died of an MI at 52 in what was intended as the middle of a run? If the Captain had CABG on 2006, routine screening may not catch CAD progression.
Again, condoances to the family.
Have respect for family, how would you feel about the demise of a loved one bandied and disected on national news.
Lets all try to stick to the very professional response to an in-flight medical emergency
sparkie624 3
Terrible News... MY Prayers goes out to the families and friends of this pilot. Job well done to the First Officer for a Job Well done under pressure, he deserves to be commended.
JohnTownsley 2
From what I've read this individual had a double bypass about 18 months prior to his death. I wonder whether that procedure should, in itself, have prevented him from receiving a 1st class medical. FWIW, other pilot incapacitations have occurred recently in GA that suggest pilot 'self certification' may not be a good idea without regular 3rd party review of risks and conditions... as would occur with a periodic visit to an AME with the return period commensurate with the risk to the flying public (and people on the ground) should in flight incapacitation occur. The arguments against an independent medical review seem to come up way short when we consider the vast number of people to persist in driving well beyond the point when they can do so with reasonable risks to self and others. Pilots, after all, come from that same population of persons who practice self deception.
anyone who flies must pass a yearly physical in order to keep the job and their license..if the pilots doctors ,the faa and amerian airlines (he actually was with us airways before the merger)knew of his condition and allowed him to fly,they must have thought he was fine..the first officer is a thoroughly trained pilot as well,and just hasnt been promoted as of yet to the captains is irritating that the media have made this situation sound as if the co pilot was miraculously able to take over and land the aircraft..this is reality and not a made for tv movie after all! sympathy to the captains family and those who knew him..
John Berry 3
The First Officer showed remarkable calm considering the circumstances. Consummate professionalism.
30west 1
Well done and I would expect nothing less! He is a highly trained and experienced pilot.
First officer is a pilot, as a captain... Difference is, he is not a captain yet !
sparkie624 1
Beyond that, some First Officers were Captains that decided to steep down for personal reasons, or either upgraded to another fleet, or to avert layoff.
Right !
Chris B 1
Report that Captain suffered massive heart attack.
djames225 1
As I pointed out in a comment earlier..just because the First officer can fly the craft, he is a human being first and this situation can be overwelming for some
The people making a big deal out of the FO using 'Cactus'- get over it. The call-sign is like second nature - he went back to old habit while under a great deal of stress. Besides it has only been a few months since the change.
What I still wonder is how a pilot with a heart condition got to be on command of an airliner or even piloting anything. People with heart condition are more likely to suffer of heart stroke due to presure changing in high altitude.
Glen England 1
Many thoughts and prayers going out to the pilots family.

A second thought, while an extremely heavy workload, landing a commercial jet in an emergency like this as it must have been, a "co-pilot" is NO less qualified than the pilot is. The "CO" should not be seen as being lesser of a pilot. In some cases, there are even FO's that have more flying hours than the other pilot in the cockpit. Some might choose to be FO.

Furthermore, if the guy in the right seat is the Pilot Flying, the guy in the Left Seat would be the "CO-pilot".
joel wiley 2
I think it goes something like Captain and First Officer in a hierarchy and Pilot Flying and Pilot Non-flying procedurally. Thoughts and condolences for the Captain's family.
I wouldn't be surprised if AA procedure manual has one labeled 'incapacitated air crew'.
MultiComm 1
Yeah the "Pilot/Co-Pilot" terminology is dead. It is as said in by @joel_wiley. Additionally, there are procedures in place for just this type of incident. Praying for the families!
my thoughts and prayers are with the AA crew and the deceased pilot's family.
matt jensen 0
framk proszek 0
Why divert? Syracuse to boston? Pretty close to begin with. Most flight danger is takeoff and landing. A passenger may miss a loved one's last minutes in some hospital. Anyone have a rational reason for that decision?
djames225 2
Its called a medical emergency in which case you divert to the nearest airport capable of safely handling the aircraft
framk proszek 0
a "medical emergency" means someone is alive and in need of emergency medical attention. I'm sure that you wouldn't want your loved ones to make an extra landing , WITH THE CO-PILOT (as the pilot is dead) in charge landing at an unfamiliar airport that isn't on their normal route. Those cities are only 200 miles apart, what are we talking about? 15 minutes difference? The pilot is dead, blue, no more, sorry but continue on to the scheduled airport where 150 passengers have 150 families waiting for them at the airport.
joel wiley 2
That sounds like a good Monday Morning Quarterback position. At the time of the incident the outcome was not so clear-cut. You are certainly entitled to your opinion which appears to be that diversion for this particular medical emergency was not warranted. While it did not alter the grim outcome of this incident, I feel the policies for diversions are reasonable.
djames225 1
What I am reading here is that you were in the cabin with the captain and first officer who, btw, has to be qualified to fly the aircraft as much as the captain (some first officers are captains on other flights). Once the medical emergency was called (the captain was probably receiving CPR at that point) you just cant say to the diverting ATC "oh its ok, hes passed away so we are going to continue on"...a medical emergency is called and u are diverted by ATC, thats it
Chris B 0

[This poster has been suspended.]

joel wiley 4
Another episode of FA sarcasm font failure.
Pileits 2
Mike this IS humor on your part right............
John Berry 2
Sarcasm has become the lost on the masses unfortunately.
Wow Mike, sarcasm, hopefully, but not sure it's appropriate
"Amazing they survived with just copilot at the controls" Really? Youre acting like copilots only have simulator time.

[This poster has been suspended.]

Either there are a lot of FO's who can't take a joke or there is a lot of dense people on here. Jeez.
sparkie624 1
Many of the FO's landings are better than the Captains Landings....
30west 0
Mike, you must have written that tongue-in-cheek aimed at the press. Please don't say you were serious.
I'll give an up vote. That's hilarious.
Margeaux K -1
(Duplicate Squawk Submitted)

American Airlines Pilot Dies Mid-Flight

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.
matt jensen -4
Josh Schwartz -4
Dude this exact link is 2 comments below yours
matt jensen 0
ok dude
Josh Schwartz -7
I'm not sure if I believe this...
Alex Smith -1

Local news report on same issue
Josh Schwartz -6
Right, I knew the flight was diverted to SYR, but there is no mention of a pilot dying. That's the part I'm not sure if I believe.
Bobby Laurie 6

Just posted the ATC audio. The FO clearly states the Captain is incapacitated.


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