Pilot thought dead co-pilot was pretending to nap and other bizarre pilot death stories

Amrutha Pagad
Amrutha PagadFeb 24, 2023 | 15:08

Pilot thought dead co-pilot was pretending to nap and other bizarre pilot death stories

Pilot keeps flying plane even as co-pilot dies, mistaking that he's joking. Representative Photo.

The pilot of a small plane in the UK continued flying even as his 57-year-old instructor died in the cockpit mid-flight in June 2022. A new report states that the pilot thought his co-pilot was joking and 'pretending to take a nap'. 

  • The pilot knew the instructor well and thought he was just pretending to take a nap whilse the pilot flew the circuit, so he did not think anything was wrong at this stage. He proceeded to fly the aircraft round the circuit, said the report.
  • The pilot landed the plane successfully solo and only noticed something was wrong with his co-pilot upon landing, when the latter remained unresponsive.
  • The co-pilot was his 'normal cheerful self' when he got on the flight, but suffered an acute cardiac failure in the cockpit of the Piper PA-28-161 aircraft and died. 
  • The BBC reported how the surviving pilot recalled his co-pilot and instructor were normally talking as they readied for takeoff. 
  • Then, the co-pilot's head rolled back as if he was pretending to take a nap and when the plane turned, the co-pilot's head slumped over the pilot's shoulder. 
  • The pilot continued to fly and only realised something was off after landing.

Usually, pilots over a certain age have to undergo medical examinations likely every 6 months. The pilot who died had cleared the medical test four months earlier. He also had a history of high blood pressure. The report also noted that the pilot who died was accompanied by a qualified pilot who could land, and in other cases, the outcome could have been different. 

The health of pilots is paramount in ensuring the safety of a flight and its occupants. In the case of commercial flights, there are often always at least two pilots flying a plane. 

While cases of in-flight or mid-flight pilot deaths are rare, there have been some bizarre incidents. 

Charles Hew Crooks

  • A 23-year-old pilot in the US, Charles Hew Crooks, fell to his death out of a small aircraft used for dropping skydivers. 
  • The plane had encountered an issue with its landing gear and the pilot-in-command called up the air traffic control to make an emergency landing. The plane also ran into turbulence.
  • At this time, Crooks had opened the window at his side in the cockpit and later told the pilot-in-command that he wasn't feeling well.
  • Crooks went towards the open ramp near the rear of the plane presumably to vomit. Later at some point, the pilot-in-command realised that Crooks had fallen out. 
  • While initially it was reported that an 'upset' Crooks jumped out of the plane to his death, a report later said that he fell out accidentally. 

Ghost plane

  • In 2005, Greek fighter jets came across a horror scene in the middle of the sky, a ghost plane. 
  • A Boeing commercial plane carrying 121 people was flying in its usual course, but its pilots had been unresponsive to the air traffic controllers for a while.
  • The fighter jets saw that the inside of the plane showed a jungle of oxygen masks dangling from the roof and unconscious pilots and passengers. 
  • They saw one man in a blue shirt making his way toward the cockpit and trying to gain control of the flight and also signalling to the fighter jet pilots. 
  • However, the flight soon crashed into a hilly region, killing everyone on board. 
  • The investigation found that the pilots had forgotten to activate the cabin pressure inside the plane. The knob for cabin pressure was set wrong. 
  • And so, the pilots and the passengers all passed out due to a lack of oxygen in the cabin resulting in the plane crash. 
  • The man in the blue shirt was a crew member with a commercial pilot licence. He was using an oxygen bottle to breathe and perhaps tried to take control of the flight but was unable to do so.  

American Airlines pilot

  • In 2017, an American Airlines pilot fell ill and died minutes before landing. 
  • The flight had to make an emergency landing and fortunately, the co-pilot was able to safely land the plane. 
  • It was later reported that the 57-year-old pilot had died of natural causes. 
Last updated: February 24, 2023 | 15:08
    Please log in
    I agree with DailyO's privacy policy