Off-duty pilot helps to land jet

An off-duty pilot helped in the emergency landing of a jumbo jet at Dublin Airport after a co-pilot become ill.

The Boeing 747-400, carrying 264 passengers, was flying over the Atlantic when the pilot was taken ill and the captain had to divert for an emergency landing at Dublin Airport.

The Air Accident Investigation Unit (AAIU) has launched an inquiry. It described the incident as “serious” and said “safety margins are reduced” when one of the two pilots are incapacitated.

The Lufthansa jet landed safely at Dublin Airport at 5.40am and the co-pilot was taken to hospital. Passengers were taken to the terminal building and, after a replacement crew arrived, flew out shortly after 1pm.

Flight LH-403 left Newark, New Jersey, on Sunday night. Early on Monday morning, the co-pilot became unwell, with some reports saying he developed a severe headache.

At around 5.10am, as the plane neared the west coast, the pilot contacted air traffic control at Shannon Airport and told them of the situation. The captain opted to land at Dublin Airport as Lufthansa could bring a relief crew there, unlike Shannon, which it does not service.

A Lufthansa spokeswoman said the incident was a “rare occurrence” and stressed that pilots and cabin crew are trained to deal with such situations.

“The captain was in full control and was able to operate the plane and if necessary call upon assistance from the cabin crew, who are trained to read check lists.

“On this particular flight it was identified that one passenger was an off-duty fully licensed pilot, and he was able to provide additional support.

“But if he had not been available the captain would have been able to make a normal landing.”

The AAIU said a team attended the scene on Monday morning.

“Following completion of this investigation a report will be published on www.aaiu.ie in due course,” said a spokesman.

“The incapacitation of a flight crew member, be that captain or first officer, is considered a serious incident. This is because safety margins are reduced when the normal dual person check and counter check checklist process is no longer available,” he said.

“However, modern aircraft, such as the one in question, are capable of being operated by one pilot and pilot simulator training is accordingly provided with one of the scenarios being pilot incapacitation.”

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