Medical emergencies are rare, but hardly unprecedented in commercial flights.
It’s far less common when they involve the plane’s pilot — and that pilot dies.
That’s what happened Monday on an American Airlines flight between Phoenix and Boston, an airline official said.
The official did not specify the cause of death beyond saying it from an illness.
Flight 550 — an Airbus A320 with 147 passengers and five crew members on board that was being operated by U.S. Airways, which is now part of American — took off around midnight, heading from the Southwest to the Northeast.
The pilot fell ill somewhere en route, and the flight was diverted to Syracuse in upstate New York.
“Medical emergency, captain is incapacitated,” someone in the cockpit told an air traffic controller, according to audio posted to LiveATC.net. “Request handling for runway.”
The flight arrived in Syracuse at 7:13 a.m. ET, according to American’s website.
Firefighters there responded to an unconscious person on the airplane, Syracuse Fire Chief Timothy Hess said. Hess was not sure if this person was the pilot, or what hospital that person went to.
The passengers made it to Boston after noon, more than four hours later than scheduled, according to U.S. Airways.