Recently two commercial airliners diverted mid-flight after crew members suffered sudden medical emergencies. Both crew, Envoy Air (American Eagle) Captain Patrick Ford and Gulf Air Cabin Crew Yasser Saleh were pronounced dead after their planes made emergency landings.
On Saturday, November 19th, Captain Patrick Ford was in command of American Eagle (Envoy Air) flight 3556 from Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport (ORD) en route to John Glenn Columbus International Airport (CMH) in Ohio. The Embraer E175 had just taken off when the co-pilot reported to ATC the Ford was incapacitated. The co-pilot took control of the aircraft carrying 57 passengers & crew and returned safely to land at ORD. According to online reports, Ford was a captain in training and was accompanied on the flight by Line Check Captain Brandon Hendrickson, indicating that Ford was possibly performing a training flight.
The airline confirmed that Captain Ford was later pronounced dead after reaching the hospital.
“Despite heroic efforts by those on board and first responders on the ground, our colleague passed away at the hospital,” Envoy Air, a regional carrier owned by American Airlines, said in a statement. “We’re deeply saddened and are doing all we can to support his family and our colleagues at this time.”
The exchange between Captain Hendrickson and air traffic control in ORD can be heard in a YouTube clip uploaded by VASAviation.
On Tuesday, November 22nd, A Gulf Air Airbus A321neo was operating flight GF19 from Bahrain (BAH) to Paris Charles de Gaulle (CDG) when it diverted to Iraq’s Erbil International Airport (EBL) after cabin crew member Yasser Saleh suffered a heart attack.
The aircraft was nearly two hours into the flight and was cruising at 34,000 feet when the medical emergency happened. After the plane diverted to Erbil, Saleh was rushed to the local hospital, where he was declared dead by Erbil’s medical services shortly afterward.
“The national carrier expresses its deepest condolences to the crew member’s family and loved ones and confirms that the flight resumed to Paris as scheduled,” Gulf Air said.
Flight Attendants’ Medical Training
Airline cabin crew are trained to be first responders and sustain the lives of those sick or injured until their aircraft can safely divert to the closest airport to seek ground medical attention. In the case of pilot incapacitation, while operating the aircraft, flight attendants are trained to safely restrain the pilot in his seat, away from the flight controls, and administer basic life-saving aid until it’s safe to remove the unconscious or sick pilot from the flight deck.