When the operating Captain became disabled in a medical emergency, an off-duty pilot who was deadheading on a Westjet flight from Calgary to Atlanta had to come to the rescue.
The off-duty pilot sat in the Captain’s seat and assisted in diverting the plane to Calgary, where the Captain could be brought to the hospital.
According to the Aviation Herald, the Boeing 737MAX flight with 99 passengers had barely just left Calgary when the pilot fell ill.
Westjet stated that the pilot had a medical emergency, but provided no other details. While flight attendants hauled the Captain out of his seat and into the passenger cabin to render First Aid, the First Officer began to divert back to Calgary.
Sources claim passengers quickly became aware that something was wrong because the flight attendants “looked worried” and started to “run up and down the aisle”. At one point, an automated external defibrillator (AED) was taken into the flight deck.
A doctor and two nurses who were on the trip as passengers aided the flight attendants and were spotted “frenziously” working on the pilot, who appeared to be chatty.
A deadheading pilot stepped in and helped the First Officer return the plane to Calgary 35 minutes later. The off-duty pilot, according to sources, is only licensed to fly the 787 Dreamliner and not the 737MAX, but was still able to help the First Officer.
Westjet refuses to offer any additional information.
Airbus stated earlier this year that it was developing on a system that would allow single-pilot operations during the cruise phase of long-haul flights where three or even more pilots would ordinarily be required.
One pilot would stay on the flight deck while the other took a break in a crew bunk rest facility as part of the initiative.
Airbus is developing a device that will allow the operating pilot to relieve themselves in the crew seat when the other pilot is on break and they are unable to exit the flight deck.
The concept is divisive, but it does not go so far as to eliminate the need for at least two pilots during safety-critical phases of flight, such as takeoff and landing.