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Ask the Captain: Dealing with in-flight health emergencies

Question: On my last flight from Minneapolis to Las Vegas, we had a passenger develop a medical emergency. The pilot chose to divert the flight to Denver to get the passenger medical attention. How much of a challenge is it for a pilot to accommodate an unscheduled landing? Is it more challenging if the diversion airport is more prone to weather issues than the original destination, i.e. sunny California vs. a snowy Denver? ( More...

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Paul Claxon 2
I think it's up to the Capt. He is trained for all problems that come up.
Jeremy Kudlick 2
(S)He's also responsible for the safety of all passengers and crew on his/her aircraft, just like the Captain of a ship. If (s)he feels the situation warrants diverting and (s)he feels they can safely do so, then (s)he will divert.
randpeck 2
My very last airline flight, my retirement flight from Nagoya to Detroit experienced a medical emergency just east of Anchorage. Fortunately, the 747-400 is double crewed so the two cockpit crews simply divided the workload and used every bit of the 45 minutes available to us to accomplish all that is required. We delivered our ill passenger to the very capable Anchorage Airport EMT's, did all that was necessary to turn a 400 passenger aircraft and arrived in Detroit about 90 minutes late. As you might assume, this badly interrupted the travel plans of many, many people. But as I circulated through the cabin to speak with passengers and explain the situation, not one discouraging word, not one disgruntled face did I see. Everyone understood the gravity of the situation and expressed concern for the welfare of their fellow traveler.

Rand Peck
Captain (ret) NWA/DAL
Jason Brown 1
As with all things in aviation, there is a "checklist" for such things, some may be a mental checklist. But you want to gather information such as the age, sex, symptoms etc first, then typically solicit medical personel onboard if symptoms warrant. During this a cockpit member is patched through to a Dr who is on stanby on the ground to handle such situation. The DR will ask his questions, and the fight crew will give the information they have gathered. The DR will recommend continuing, diverting, or other medical advice, and the flight crew will make a decision based on his advice, dispatch, weather etc....Flight crews deal with snowy, rain, sun etc all the time and is really not an "issue". The only issue may be if airport may be an overhead thunderstorm, or snowed in. Cheers.
Steve Jasper -1
joel wiley 1
"light casualties are never light to the casualties".
was that an incidental Caps Lock issue, or did you really mean to shout?
Steve Jasper 2
Sorry....I come off as a little abrupt at times. Please except my sincere apologies.
joel wiley 1
none necessary, I've lost count of the times I've had a capsloc problem. It gets caught fastest on entering passwords.
not much time in the air, but several years in the ER.


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