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17 June 2010

Flight Attendant Fills in for Sick Pilot

On Monday June 14, 2010, the first officer on American Airlines flight 1612, a Boeing 767 flying nonstop from San Francisco to Chicago with 225 passengers and a crew of seven, became ill about an hour into the flight and was unable to continue with his flying duties. After the captain, Jim Hunter, deemed the first officer too ill to fly, the flight's purser reviewed the passenger list for off-duty pilots, but none were on board. It turns out that two of the cabin crew members, the purser and flight attendant Patti Deluna, both had flying experience, the captain chose Deluna because she had more flying experience. She earned a commercial license in 1970 and has logged about 300 flight hours.

According to an American Airlines spokesperson, Deluna read checklist procedures to the captain as he configured the aircraft for landing, in addition to handling other tasks in the cockpit. She was in the cockpit for about the last 90 minutes of the flight.

The plane, carrying 225 passengers and seven crew members, landed safely at Chicago's O'Hare airport, at 4:24 p.m. Monday. After the aircraft landed, the first officer was taken to a local hospital where he was treated and released the next day.

Previous 767 Incapacitated Pilot Incident

This is not the first time that a flight attendant has taken over for an incapacitated pilot. In January 2008, the first officer on an Air Canada 767 on a flight from Toronto to London became incapacitated and had to be removed from the cockpit. The captain declared an emergency and completed the flight with the assistance of a flight attendant who was also a licensed pilot.

A copy of the Air Canada incident report from the Irish Air Accident Investigation Unit is available at

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