The American Airlines pilot who died during a flight early Monday morning has been identified as Michael Johnston, a longtime pilot who had worked in the aviation industry for a quarter of a century. Many told reporters they didn’t know anything happened until a flight attendant informed them via intercom the pilot was sick.
Rumors of the pilot’s death circulated in the Syracuse airport, she said, but were confirmed only by an announcement on their makeup flight to Boston.
The Airbus A320 plane, which had 147 passengers and five crew members on board, landed in at 7:13 a.m. ET in Syracuse, N.Y., after the crew reported a medical emergency.
Captain Michael Johnston, 57, was piloting the plane when he fell ill somewhere en route. His wife BJ was informed by the medical examiner there was a “99.9 percent” chance he died from a heart attack. “Medical emergency. Captain is incapacitated”.
Before the flight landed at Syracuse, the first officer called the airport tower and said in a calm voice, “American 550”.
In a recording of his exchange with the tower, the officer expresses concern whether ambulance medics can get on the plane quickly. He was assured they could and told to go into a gate where the medics would meet the plane.
“We couldn’t be more proud of the teamwork this crew showed during an extremely hard time”.
Crew members “took extraordinary care of Mike, each other and our customers”, airline CEO Doug Parker said in a statement sent to employees.
She described him as an “amazing father to his children, and the best husband I could ever ask for”.
The official added that the two pilots in the cockpit were equally trained. The pilot may handle take-off while the first officer or co-pilot does the landing.
Gallagher said both pilots are capable of flying the aircraft.