Thursday, November 20, 2008

Air Canada Co-Pilot Has Nervous Breakdown In Flight

An Air Canada co-pilot having a mental breakdown had to be forcibly removed from the cockpit, restrained and sedated, and a flight attendant with flying experience helped the pilot safely make an emergency landing, an Irish investigation concluded Wednesday.

The report by the Irish Air Accident Investigation Unit into an incident in January applauded the decision-making of the pilot and the cockpit skills of the flight attendant, who stepped into the co-pilot's seat for the emergency diversion to Shannon Airport in western Ireland.

None of the 146 passengers or other nine crew members on board the Boeing 767 bound from Toronto to London was injured after the 58-year-old co-pilot had to be removed by attendants and sedated by two doctors on board.

The report did not identify the crew by name, nor specify the psychiatric diagnosis for the co-pilot, who was hospitalized for 11 days in Irish mental wards before being flown by air ambulance back to Canada.

It said the co-pilot was a licensed veteran with more than 6,500 hours' flying time, about half on board Boeing 767s, and recently had passed a medical examination.

But it said the pilot noticed immediately that his co-pilot was not in good professional shape on the day of the flight, arriving late. He reported the co-pilot's behavior worsened once they were airborne and advised him to take a break.

As the aircraft reached the middle of the Atlantic, the report said, the co-pilot began talking in a "rambling and disjointed" manner, and then refused to buckle his seat belt or observe other safety procedures. The pilot concluded his colleague was now so "belligerent and uncooperative" he couldn't do his job.

The report said the pilot summoned several flight attendants to remove the co-pilot from the cockpit, and one flight attendant suffered an injured wrist in the struggle. Doctors from Britain and Canada on board determined the co-pilot was confused and disoriented.

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