Is there a pilot on board?

In movies like Airplane! the pilots have all been incapacitated and a desperate call goes around “is there a pilot on board?” To which some brave soul then stands up and says something like, “Yes I can fly the plane”.

What’s weird though is that something a little like this actually happened recently.

An Air Canada Boeing 767 (C-FMXC) on a flight between Toronto and London was midway across the Atlantic when the First Officer showed signs of being confused and unwell. The captain decided the first officer should be relieved of duty and he was removed from the flight deck.

At this point the passenger lists were inspected to see if there were any airline pilots on board, unfortunately there were not, however one of the flight attendants held a commercial pilots license and she was asked to assist the captain. (There is suggestion on one forum that this flight attendant was either former or reserve Canadian Airforce)

The aircraft diverted to Shannon airport in Ireland where it landed safely. The captain later commented that the Flight attendant sitting in the second seat was “not out of place”.

The ill first officer was taken to a nearby hospital in Ireland and later flown back to Canada.

So that is an outline, but it raises so many interesting questions, many of which I may never know the answers too. The most important one of course being, how many cabin crew have piloting qualifications?

The accident report (by the Irish AAIB) is suitably detailed but, quite correctly, doesn’t include enough information to identify the people involved, so I may never know the complete story. Hopefully someone will make a documentary out of it. (But changing the names perhaps to keep the privacy of the ill pilot)

Irish AAIB Report

Guardian Article
(Mostly the same as the official report)

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