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Pilot Death Forces Emergency Newark Landing Special

By Charles W. Kim     Jun 18, 2009 in World
The mid-air death of a Continental Airlines pilot caused an emergency landing at Newark, NJ on June 18. The 60-year old deceased pilot is only one of six to die in the air since 1994.
NEWARK – Continental Airlines flight 61 made a safe emergency landing just before noon after its 60-year old pilot died mid way through the trip from Brussels, officials said.
The Boeing 777 jet carrying 247 passengers was brought in at 11:49 a.m. by two co-pilots also on board for the trip, Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Arlene Salac said.
“It is not uncommon to have a crew like this (two co-pilots) on lengthy flights,” Salac said.
Passengers on the flight were safe during the landing, which Salac said was treated with “priority handling” due to the circumstances and not because of any mechanical difficulties.
“The two First Officers (co-pilots) would be qualified to land the plane,” Salac said.
Continental Airlines Spokesman Julie King issued a brief statement confirming the incident and said the deceased pilot had been with the company for 32 years and was based in Newark.
King said the carrier would not be releasing any further details regarding the flight or crew.
Rowland Herwig of the FAA Oklahoma City office said similar mid-flight deaths have occurred six times since statistics on such events were first recorded in 1994.
"It doesn't happen very often," Herwig said.
According to those statistics compiled by the Civil Areospace Medical Institute in Oklahoma City, those deaths included four captains aged 55 in 1994, 53 in 2000, 57 in 2007 and the 60-year old pilot today.
Two first officers also died during that period including a 48-year old in 1995 and a 56-year old in 1998, according to the statistics.
Those numbers are very rare given the hundreds of thousands of flights during that time, Herwig said.
"It is a very busy sky (with airplane travel)," Herwig said.
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