Pilot sought help of passengers to land jet


A CAPTAIN of an Air Canada transatlantic flight sought the assistance of any passengers with flying experience to help him land the jet in an emergency diversion to Shannon airport last January.

According to an investigation by the Department of Transport's Air Accident Investigation Unit, the captain sought the assistance after his co-pilot had to be forcibly removed from the cockpit by flight attendants when the captain ruled he was in no fit condition to continue at the controls.

The first officer was immediately seen by two doctors on board and they found he was "in a confused and disorientated state".

During the incident on January 28th, a flight attendant sustained a wrist injury. The jet was en route from Toronto to Heathrow when the 58-year-old captain decided to make an emergency landing at Shannon to get medical assistance.

The captain then requested a flight attendant to go through the passenger information list "to see if there were any flight crew on board who might be available to assist on the flight deck for the remainder of the flight".

No pilots were found among the 146 passengers, however a flight attendant with a commercial pilot's licence volunteered to help land the aircraft.

In his statement to the investigators, the captain said the flight attendant was "not out of place" while occupying the right-hand seat in the cockpit.

The report states that as the aircraft was descending, passengers were informed that the aircraft was diverting to Shannon due to a medical emergency. It stated: "The descent, approach and landing were uneventful." Giving an outline of events leading to the first officer's removal from the cockpit, the report states that at about the mid-point of the flight, the first officer "began a conversation which was rambling and disjointed in nature and not at all in character, as the captain knew him to be an outgoing and talkative person".

The first officer took a second extended break "after which his attempt to re-enter the flight deck was contrary to procedures. He reoccupied his seat but did not fasten his seat belt as normally done. "The first officer's behaviour then became belligerent and unco-operative which convinced the captain he was now dealing with a crew member who was effectively incapacitated."

After landing, the first officer was removed for psychiatric treatment to Ennis General Hospital. On February 8th, he was flown home to Canada where his care continued.

The air investigators concluded that the captain's decision to land was prudent and he had dealt effectively with a difficult situation.