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First Officer Lands Plane After Captain Dies Mid-Flight

First Officer Lands Plane After Captain Dies Mid-Flight
Joe Cortez

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]

View Comments (5)


  1. Irpworks

    March 4, 2016 at 9:04 pm

    Good work. Hero? No. This is why we have 2 pilots on commercial flights.

  2. FlyingWithers

    March 5, 2016 at 7:06 am

    This is wonderful. Such good news. With that said, I wonder why people make such a fuss over this. The First Officer is a pilot and landing the aircraft is part of the job.

  3. LoungeBum

    March 5, 2016 at 9:55 pm

    Remarkable job, probably with a lot of stress seeing someone die next to you specially if the person that die is the Pilot, but aren’t the Co-pilots expected to react the way he did on situations like this? at least this is what I am expecting when I see two persons in the cabin.

  4. bigbuy

    March 7, 2016 at 4:16 am

    When I was raised as a child, I was taught that the word “Hero” meant that someone put their lives in jeopardy to save someone else. This situation does not merit that word. Thanks to the MSM, the word means nothing anymore.

  5. cestmoi123

    March 7, 2016 at 6:46 am

    Having the FO land is incredibly common. They handle, typically, about half the flying duties.

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