A UK pilot thought his co-pilot was jokingly taking a nap beside him when he had actually suffered cardiac arrest and died in the cockpit.
The pilot was flying around an airport in northern England and realised what had happened only after he landed.
According to the Straits Times, a safety report by the Air Accidents Investigation Branch in Britain found that the 57 year old co-pilot had passed a medical exam just four months earlier.
He was asked to join the short journey around Blackpool Airport for safety reasons due to windy weather.
The surviving pilot says they were talking normally while the aircraft was gearing up to take off. The co-pilot said that everything looked good and that there was nothing behind the aircraft.
Shortly after, however, the pilot said his colleague’s head rolled back as if he had fallen asleep. The report noted that the pilot just thought his co-pilot was joking around.
“The pilot knew the instructor well and thought he was just pretending to take a nap while the pilot flew the circuit, so he did not think anything was wrong at this stage.”
However, when the plane turned, the co-pilot’s head slumped onto the pilot’s shoulder. But, the pilot still thought it was a joke and continued flying.
It was only when he landed that he grew concerned as his co-pilot was still unresponsive. He notified emergency services for help, but his co-pilot could not be revived.
An autopsy revealed that the co-pilot had a history of high blood pressure and was taking medication for his condition. He had reportedly suffered a heart attack.
The co-pilot was reported as being “his normal cheerful self” that morning. Three people who had flown with him before the incident said that he seemed well.
Britain’s Civil Aviation Authority says it will continually review health guidelines. It noted that the rarity of accidents caused by cardiac events in flight suggests “the balance is currently about right.”
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