Air France 777 returns to Washington after captain feels bad

May 28e, an Air France flight from Washington Dulles to Paris Charles de Gaulle returned to Washington after the pilot fell ill. A passenger on the flight who was also a doctor treated the pilot who needed no further treatment and is now well.

An Air France Boeing 777-300 returned to Washington after the pilot fell ill. Photo: Air France

What happened?

Report by the Aviation Herald suggests that Air France flight AF-55 was about 330 NM east of Halifax, Canada, when it turned back to Washington. The plane had just started crossing the Atlantic when the pilot had stomach problems. According to the crew’s report to air traffic control, the pilot of the Boeing 777-300 fell ill with a stomach problem and decided to return to Washington rather than continue to Paris.

On the approach back to Washington, the pilot confirmed that he felt bad but now feels better. The pilot spoke to a doctor who was traveling on board as a passenger. Shortly thereafter, the pilot said he had decided to return to Washington due to the long distance remaining to get to Paris.

The flight was off the east coast of Canada when it turned around and returned to Washington. Graphic: Radarbox.com

Upon landing in Washington, the pilot did not require additional medical assistance, and the aircraft landed safely just under five hours after departure. The usual duration of this flight is about six hours and 50 minutes. The plane, registered F-GSQC, then waited 32 hours in Washington before operating flight AF-4081 to Paris.

When a captain gets sick

What made the pilot ill in this case was clearly not that bad, but if it had, there are a series of procedures in place to keep everyone safe. First, the co-pilot is always fully trained on the aircraft, so if the pilot is incapacitated, the aircraft can land safely without him.

If the medical situation was serious, the Air France plane could have diverted and landed at another airport. New York and Philadelphia were closer. In a serious emergency, aircraft may divert to seek medical attention on the ground as soon as possible. Obviously, this was not necessary for this pilot, who seemed to be doing well on his return to Washington.

If the Pilot becomes ill, the co-pilot can land the airplane without assistance. However, in this case it was not necessary. Photo: Air France

A similar incident

Planes that hijack or return to base for medical reasons are not uncommon. A similar incident occurred in April when an All Nippon Airways pilot suffered a stroke. The flight was heading to Tokyo from Paris and was over Russia at the time. Due to the severity of the incident, the aircraft diverted to Novosibirsk. The pilot was then treated by medical professionals and taken to hospital.

It is unusual for a flight to be medically diverted and then not require medical assistance on the ground. Hijacking a flight costs time and money and does not really please the passengers. Usually they only confuse for serious reasons that require additional medical attention once on the ground. It is therefore rare to hijack a flight and not need additional assistance.

What do you think? If the pilot was okay upon landing, should he have diverted? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section.


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About Guillermo Russell

Guillermo Russell

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