A pilot suffered a fatal heart attack in midflight Thursday, later dying, reports The Associated Press on Sept. 28 via Fox News. The 300-pound United Airlines pilot was en route from Houston to Seattle when his heart gave out, prompting an off-duty pilot to assume control, who then safely diverted the plane and landed in Boise, Idaho.
The pilot, 63 year-old Henry Skillern, was given CPR during the flight, and was taken to Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center on North Curtis road in Boise, where he died. All 161 passengers and five crew members on board the Boeing 737-900 arrived safely.
The flight crew reportedly made an in-flight announcement calling for a doctor to come to the cockpit cabin. A physician and two army soldiers responded and administered CPR on Skillern, while the off-duty-pilot and the co-pilot worked to land the plane.
“We got a man down, chest compressions going on right now. I'm not sure too much right now the status,” a United Airlines crew member told air traffic control. “Can an ambulance and maybe some air stairs meet us on the runway?”
The plane was put down only 15 minutes after the 26-year veteran pilot suffered the heart attack, but was unable to be revived.
“I am sad to confirm that our co-worker passed away last night,” United Airlines spokeswoman Christen David said. “Our thoughts are with his family at this time.
Airline pilots regularly undergo six-month medical screenings required by the Federal Aviation Administration. Included in those checkups is an EKG to measure heart health.
Skillern’s death is causing some to once again question the FAA mandatory retirement rule, says Forbes. From 1959 to 2007, pilots were required to retire at age 60. In 2007, the age was raised to 65.