Alejandro Faini,

Editor (North America)


WASHINGTON — The captain of a Boeing 737 operated by United Airlines suffered a heart attack in-flight, which took his life. The plane was safely landed by the co-pilot. Flight 1603 departed from Houston, Texas with 161 passengers early in the afternoon of September 26 to Seattle in the Northern state of Washington. A few hours after departure, the co-pilot sent an emergency call to the ATC (Air Traffic Control) when the Captain, Henry Skillern, from Texas suffered a heart attack in the cockpit.

The crew asked for any medical experienced passenger on board to help with the situation. A doctor flying to Seattle tried to help the captain with CPR manoeuvres while the co-pilot performed an emergency landing in Boise, Idaho. The co-pilot received help from an off-duty pilot in the same plane.

Immediately after the plane landed at 20:10, emergency crew took Captain Henry Skillern to the nearest hospital in an attempt to save his life. Later on, the airline communicated that the Captain had died. Captain Skillern was 63 and this new incident renewed the debate of the retirement age for commercial pilots in the U.S. In 2007 the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) push up the retirement age from 60 to 65. But this incident has caused a lot of experts to question that decision.

Pilots have regular medical checks. For Pilots under 40 years old, the license requires an annual test, whereas for pilots above 40 years, the medical checks are compulsory every six months.

While the debate is still on, experts will meet later next year to agree with the age regulation.


Image Courtesy: Aero Icarus from Zürich, Switzerland, via Wikimedia Commons