Hearing the news today from CNN and other sources that a 300-pound, 63-year-old pilot had a fatal heart attack in the middle of a flight yesterday, September 27, to Seattle, Washington, you can’t help but wonder why a grossly obese person was allowed the fly a commercial aircraft, or any plane for that matter. If it’s one topic we hear about constantly, from Ms. Obama to the American Heart Association, obesity can kill. And yet passengers were put at peril by a pilot with possible major health risks.
United Flight 1603, according to United, a Boeing 737-900, made a safe emergency landing in Boise, Idaho with the help of an off-duty pilot who was a passenger on the flight (although there had been some conflicting reports about who helped land the aircraft).
Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center officals told AP on Friday that the pilot -- identified as Henry Skillern of Humble, Texas -- arrived alive but died overnight at the hospital. According to the CNN online report, “Ada County Coroner Erwin Sonnenberg performed an autopsy on Skillern late Friday morning and confirmed that he died of a heart attack”.
CNN said that Seattle TV station KOMO reports a Flight 1603 passenger says a crew member made an in-flight announcement prior to the emergency landing asking if anyone on the plane was a physician. The United crew's communication with air traffic control indicated the seriousness of the situation.
"We got a man down, chest compressions going on right now. I'm not sure too much right now the status," a United crew member says in a recorded conversation with air traffic control quoted by KOMO. "Can an ambulance and maybe some air stairs meet us on the runway?"
Other sources confirm that two passengers on the flight helped perform CPR on the pilot and had to move him to the First Class section because of his excess weight (he was too big to work on in the cockpit).
United confirmed that the flight was carrying 161 passengers and landed in Boise at 8:11 p.m. local time. The passengers were able to get on another flight to Seattle later in the day.