A trainee captain became ill shortly after takeoff from Chicago O’Hare Airport on Saturday night.
Tragically, it was later determined that the trainee captain had died of a suspected heart attack despite the “heroic” efforts of the passengers and crew on board as well as first responders on the ground who attempted to save his life.
The pilot was employed by Envoy Air, an American Airlines wholly-owned subsidiary that flies flights under the American Eagle name.
The unidentified pilot has passed away despite the best efforts of rescue personnel, an Envoy Air official revealed on Tuesday.
In an internal memo, the airline told staffers: “Despite heroic efforts by those on board and first responders on the ground, our colleague passed away at the hospital”.
“We’re deeply saddened and are doing all we can to support his family and our colleagues at this time,” the airline said in a statement.
The pilot was in control of the AA3556 flight operated by American Airlines from Chicago O’Hare to Columbus, Ohio. He was seated in the left-hand Captain’s seat as a new Captain in training and was accompanied by an experienced training Captain in the right-hand seat. A First Officer was occupying a jumpseat as well.
The other operating pilot had been “knocked out,” according to the training Captain, and they needed to return to Chicago shortly after departure while the aircraft was still in its initial climb.
Flight Radar 24’s data reveals that the Embraer E175LR made a quick return to O’Hare, touching down less than 10 minutes after departure.
Prior to the arrival of the medical teams, the captain was taken from his seat and given Emergency First Aid. Tragically, it was later determined that the pilot had passed away.
The incident is likely to be used by critics of single-pilot operations, the single-pilot strategy would mostly be utilized for long-haul flights, where three or occasionally even four pilots may be needed, and would not actually be used during important flight phases like takeoff and landing, where at least two pilots would still be necessary.
One of the problems that need to be solved is how a single pilot on duty would use the restroom in an emergency and what would happen if they fell ill while no one else was available.
The aircraft’s built-in computer would be able to take control at a moment’s notice and land itself if necessary, but in the long run, planemakers are aiming towards single-pilot operations for all aspects of flying.