American Airlines pilot dies on Boston bound flight

An American Airlines pilot has died after falling ill on board an overnight flight from Phoenix to Boston.


In a recording of his exchange with the tower, the officer expresses concern whether medics can get on the plane quickly. He was assured they could and told to go into a gate where the medics would meet the plane.

“Medical emergency, captain is incapacitated, request handling for runway”, the co-pilot said, according to transcripts of the flight’s communications with air traffic control.

A plane landed safely after its pilot died during the middle of the flight.

KUTV named the pilot as Michael Johnston from Utah.

Spokeswoman for American Airlines, Andrea Huguely, told the Associated Press that when the captain fell ill, the first officer took over the plane.

“What is important is the consistent result – the plane lands safely”, he said.

Cacciola was among the 147 travelers and five group individuals on board Flight 550 when it took off around midnight, heading from the Southwest toward the Northeast. Anderson said rumors of the captain’s death began circulating after landing, but an official announcement was made only on their makeup flight. The flight spent about four hours on the ground in Syracuse and then continued on to Boston after a replacement crew arrived to the aircraft in Syracuse.

In a very rare incident a pilot dies while flying the airlines.

It’s understood that 57-year-old pilot Michael Johnston died from natural causes, reportedly a heart attack, on the red-eye flight between Phoenix and Boston on Monday morning.

Anderson, a Buffalo native who regularly visited Syracuse, said in a phone interview with that she was awakened by a calm voice over the loudspeaker telling passengers of the diversion to Syracuse and of the captain’s medical crisis.

“This rainbow came out, and the skies opened up as if his spirit was leaving the plane and going to heaven”, Cacciola said. “Our thoughts are definitely with the crew member’s friends and family…”


He had flown Bombardier Dash 8s, and Boeing 737s, and 757s, before flying the A320, the airline said. There’s debate in aviation circles about whether over-reliance on automation is eroding pilots’ flying skills.

American Airlines captain dead after falling ill during flight