Captain Michael Johnston, age 57, was piloting American Airlines Phoenix-Boston flight with 175 passengers aboard when he suddenly suffered what doctors believe to be a heart attack and died mid-flight over New York on October 5th, 2015.
Once Johnston fell ill, the plane was already in an autopilot function, but one of Flight 550’s five co-pilots immediately took control of the plane. The co-pilot landed the plane safely in Syracuse, New York. Luckily, no passengers aboard the plane were harmed.
According to Johnston’s family, he had a double bypass surgery in 2006. Because of this, Johnston was required to have a health check and a physical every six months to make sure he was well and healthy.
“He had problems with his heart, but he seemed perfectly fine,” Johnston’s wife was quoted as saying in a KUTV report. His death was a heart attack which is not a huge surprise considering Johnston had been known to have heart issues.
The way the situation was handled by the crew was extremely impressive: “We couldn’t be more proud of the teamwork this crew showed during an extremely difficult time,” said airline CEO Doug Parker in a statement sent to employees reported by CNN.
“Maybe more regular health checks and physicals for pilots and crew members, something like check their blood pressure every week, could help,” Ms. Molling, an art teacher at Boys’ Latin school, suggested when asked what airlines could do to make an incident like this less likely to happen.