Flying Instructor Dies Mid-Flight. His Co-Pilot Thought He Was Napping: AAIB

This is not a photo of the aircraft from the story. (Photo by LIONEL BONAVENTURE/AFP via Getty Images)

Brent Foster Contributor
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A flying instructor died of a heart attack mid-flight with his co-pilot initially believing he was taking a nap, according to a February report from the British Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB).

The pilot, who was fully qualified, requested the flying instructor accompany him on the June 29, 2022 flight for the purpose of meeting currency requirements, according to the AAIB report. The pair were operating a single-engine Piper PA-28-261 aircraft out of Blackpool Airport in England.

The pilot maintained a normal degree of conversation with the instructor as they taxiied to the runway, according to the report. The instructor said, “Looks good, there is nothing behind you,” as the pilot cleared a power check procedure.

The pilot saw the instructor’s head roll back shortly after takeoff, according to the AAIB report. Thinking the instructor was feigning a nap, the pilot continued with the circuit, even as the instructor reportedly rested his head on the pilot’s shoulder during a turn. (RELATED: Flight Attendant Dies On Plane From Heart Attack)

As the aircraft landed and approached the apron, the pilot noticed the instructor still remained unresponsive. He called airport emergency services, who promptly responded and attempted to revive the instructor, though their efforts were unsuccessful, the report reads.

A post-mortem exam found the cause of death for the 57-year-old instructor to be acute cardiac failure, according to the AAIB report. He allegedly had a “history of hypertensive disease (high blood pressure).”

People who interacted with the instructor on the morning of the flight described him as “his normal cheerful self,” the report continued. Three individuals who flew with the instructor on a trial flight earlier that same day also reported “he seemed well.”