UK Pilot Assumes Colleague Was Joking And Continues Flying As He Suffers Cardiac Arrest

The pilot assumed his colleague was pretending to sleep and continued flying until the end of the circuit.

Cover image via Air Team Images & DCStudio/Freepik

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A co-pilot who was suffering from a cardiac arrest was assumed to be pretending to nap by the pilot who continued the flight unaware

According to an Air Accidents Investigation Branch report, the incident took place at the Blackpool Airport in Lancashire, England, on 29 June 2022.

The report was published earlier this month on 9 February.

The 57-year-old victim was flying a practice circuit with another pilot who had requested for a co-pilot for safety reasons due to the windy weather conditions.

The two had boarded the light aircraft Piper PA-28-161, also known as the G-BORL, and were to fly around the airport.

The co-pilot was reportedly employed as a full-time senior flight instructor and had a total of 8,876 flying hours accumulated. 

Image via The Mirror

Shortly after takeoff, the co-pilot who was reportedly talking normally minutes before, rolled his head back as if asleep

The pilot assumed that his co-pilot, whom he knew well, was just pretending to sleep.

The pilot recalled his colleague talking normally during the taxi saying, "Looks good, there is nothing behind you."

Even though a mid-air turn caused the co-pilot's body to slump over onto the pilot, with the victim's head leaning against the pilot's shoulder, the pilot continued flying and safely returned to the airport, still thinking it was part of a joke.

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

Upon landing and realising the victim was unresponsive, the pilot made a call for help. The fire crew and air ambulance medical crew both tried to revive the man, but to no avail.

Image for illustration purposes only.

Image via Air Team Images

The Civil Aviation Authority's medical department concluded the instructor had died from an acute cardiac arrest

The victim was reported to have been his normal, cheerful self throughout the day, and there were no signs he wasn't feeling well.

He had a medical history of high blood pressure and had been treating it for over 10 years with regular doctor visits and prescribed medication.

"His blood pressure had been treated for more than 10 years and was within regulatory limits," wrote the department.

The report also added that the victim was overweight, a non-smoker, and was negative in a toxicology test.

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