Flight Instructor Dies Mid-Flight, Pilot Thought It Was Joke

A pilot thought his flight instructor was pretending when he suddenly suffered a heart attack during takeoff last year, according to a new report released by the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB). The victim, who was 57 at the time of the incident, had agreed to accompany a qualified pilot on a flight from Blackpool Airport in Lancashire, England, to another airfield on June 29th 2022.

As the Piper PA-28-161 aircraft took off, however, the instructor experienced an acute cardiac failure and died. The surviving pilot said that shortly after takeoff his instructor’s head rolled back and he initially thought he was just pretending to take a nap while he flew the circuit. When his instructor’s head fell onto his shoulder after a short period of time, the pilot again believed he was still joking around and did not think anything serious was wrong until they landed.

The medical analysis found that the victim had diffuse atheromatous disease which caused fatty substances to block his arteries as well as suffering from hypertensive disease or high blood pressure for which he had been taking medication since 2002. Everyone who interacted with him prior to the flight reported that he seemed normal and there were no signs that indicated any abnormalities before taxiing.

The senior flight instructor had recorded nearly 9,000 flying hours with 184 of those being in the past 90 days alone so it is fortunate that despite having no help from him mid-flight that this other pilot was able to safely land. The AAIB warned in their report that if this happened on another flight then it could have ended differently.

They also added further stating that “no tests or assessment can give a 100 percent reliable detection of cardiac issues” making it difficult for any medical professional or even family members to predict any danger their loved ones may be in before engaging in activities like flying an airplane.


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