Listen to the moment a co-pilot takes over flight after pilot becomes ill and dies

An audio recording has emerged of the moment a co-pilot took charge of an American Airlines flight after the pilot became ill.

Flight 550, which left Phoenix, Arizona, at 11.55pm local time and was diverted mid-flight, and made an emergency landing shortly after 7am New York time (noon GMT).

Airline spokeswomen Andrea Huguely said after the flight’s captain was stricken, the first officer landed the plane, with 147 passengers and five crew members on board, safely.

It is thought the pilot, Michael Johnston, suffered a heart attack.

About two minutes into the recording the co-pilot can be heard telling ground control that the pilot has become "unresponsive".

Before the flight landed at Syracuse, the first officer called the airport tower and said in a calm voice: “American 550. Medical emergency. Captain is incapacitated.” He requested a runway to land.

In the recording of his exchange with the tower, the officer expresses concern whether medics can get on the plane quickly. He is assured that they can and is told to go into a gate where the medics would meet the plane.

His wife B.J. says she can take some comfort from the fact her husband was happy in his last moments.

She said: "He knew that he wanted to be a pilot, he knew that was what he wanted to do.

"And if nothing else, I am grateful that that is what he was doing, you know, that he was doing what he loved."

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