First officer safely lands Airbus A321 after mid-flight emergency.
A Saudi Arabian Airlines first officer is being hailed as a hero after successfully landing an Airbus A321 when the pilot suddenly died of a massive heart attack. Britain’s The Mirror reports the incident took place as the aircraft was approaching Riyadh King Khalid International Airport (RUH) after two hours of flying.
The flight, commanded by captain Walid bin Mohammed Al Mohammed, departed normally from Bisha Airport (BHH) on March 1, with 220 passengers reported aboard. Prior to landing at RUH, Al Mohammed reportedly passed out at the controls, forcing the first officer to declare a state of emergency. According to The Aviation Herald, the first officer asked the flight crew to determine if there were doctors or other medical staff on board. Receiving no response, the co-pilot continued to land the aircraft at RUH. Medical teams met the aircraft upon arrival, but were unable to resuscitate the captain and declared Al Mohammed’s death.
In a statement to The Mirror, the flag carrier of Saudi Arabia confirmed the incident, expressing their condolences to the captain’s family. At the same time, the airline praised the actions of the first officer, saying he worked “meticulously and in a professional manner” to land the aircraft safely. The passengers aboard the aircraft were only informed of the captain’s death after the aircraft successfully landed.
The incident marks at least the second situation worldwide where a captain of a commercial aircraft has died in flight over the last six months. In October 2015, an American Airlines flight was diverted after the captain experienced a medical emergency aboard the aircraft. The captain reportedly died prior to landing.
[Photo: Captain Walid bin Mohammed Al Mohammed via CEN/Sada]