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Air Force Capt. Mark Gongol hears 'is there a pilot on board?’ Helps land plane

Air Force pilot hops into the cockpit when pilot of American Airlines flight has heart attack.
Air Force pilot hops into the cockpit when pilot of American Airlines flight has heart attack.
Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Air Force Captain Mark Gongol was flying home with his family when one of the flight crew came over the plane's speaker system asking if "Are there any pilots on board?" Gongal recalls how passengers already knew that something was going on as the announcement before this one asked for medical assistance and the plane had slowed down and was descending, reports News Max on June 4.

"Does anyone know how to fly a plane" is basically what the passengers got out of that announcement, said Brian Kilmeade and Steve Doocy on "Fox and Friends" live Wednesday. This is not something you want to hear at 30,000-feet mid-flight.

Gongal and his wife looked at each other as the pilot announcement was heard. She said to him, "you better press your call button." He was led into the cockpit and the first officer gave him a five-second interview. What do you fly? This was basically what she needed to know and then asked Gongal to sit down and work the radio and run the check list with her.

He was quick to say on "Fox and Friends" that he never took control of the Boeing 737, the United Airlines first officer pilot did all the flying, he did just what she asked. He supported every decision made by the first officer, who was a little stressed but remained perfectly calm. He said "who wouldn't be" stressed under these circumstances, reports CNN News.

Gongal said the first officer took complete control and he did what she asked. "She was very impressive," said the Air Force pilot. When he first arrived in the cockpit, he said he had interrupted her train of thought, but it took just a minute of the two working together to get back on track.

The captain of the plane appeared to be having a heart attack and a registered nurse, Linda Alweiss, attended to the pilot. Alweiss's husband said, "she did her job." She didn't hesitate knowing that at 30,000-feet the person who was supposed to be flying the plane was her patient, said Alan Alweiss.

Gongal said about the entire situation:

"I saw nothing but the finest professionalism under pressure out of the flight attendants, the nurses and the first officer," Gongol told AFSC. "Everyone aboard the aircraft remained calm, there is no doubt in my mind this contributed above all else to our successful outcome. In my opinion any military pilot would have done the exact same thing I did."

This Air Force pilot flies B1B Lancer Bombers, which doesn't look anything like the Boeing 737, but Gongal said on Fox this morning, while they are totally two different types of aircraft, when it comes to flying the planes, it is very similar.

The flight landed without any problems and while the passengers didn't make it to Denver that night, the airline put them all up in a hotel and got them on their way the next day. Gongal said that United Airlines also offered the passengers another flight in the future.

The pilot survived the heart attack and later called Gongol and the others who jumped in to help to thank them. This incident happened on December 30, but it was just revealed this week.

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