Air France B772 over Atlantic on Jan 17th 2011, pilot incapacitation

Last Update: July 13, 2012 / 15:30:02 GMT/Zulu time

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Incident Facts

Date of incident
Jan 17, 2011

Classification
Incident

Airline
Air France

Aircraft Type
Boeing 777-200

ICAO Type Designator
B772

The French BEA have released their final report in French concluding the probable cause of the serious incident was:

the captain suffering abdominal pain, the symptoms of which had not occurred before departure of the flight. The investigation was not able to determine the exact nature of the pain.

The diversion was initiated on advice by a doctor (cardiologist), who suspected internal bleeding. The crew followed the advice but did not notify their operations center which could have assisted in organising the diversion and medical services.

Command of the aircraft was never formally transferred, it was not determined whether the captain had been partially or completely incapacitated as result of the illness, it was also not established whether the captain could have continued duties as a pilot monitoring. In this unclear command transfer there is risk the first officer might apprehend overstepping partial command or intruding into the captain's command authority.

The company documentation on command transfer is vague and such "encourages" development of situations on board like in this case. Similiar applies to the guidelines for the procedures "sickness on board" with regards to passengers and crew.

The aircraft was enroute about 72 minutes into the flight, the first officer was pilot flying, when the captain felt unwell. Upon request of cabin crew a doctor identified himself in the cabin and made a first assessment diagnosing gastroenteritis and treated the captain with antispasmodic which improved the captain's condition. The aircraft was about 80nm from Shannon (Ireland) at that point, the operations center was not informed. Following the medical assessment and improvement the captain decided to continue the flight, the aircraft entered Oceanic Airspace about 27 minutes later.

About one hour after entering Oceanic Airspace, the aircraft was about 760nm west of Shannon and 585nm south of Keflavik (Iceland), the captain felt abdominal pain and the doctor was again requested to the flight deck. The doctor recognized the captain was very pale with a stiff body and tremors paired with serious pain in the abdominal area, suspected internal bleeding and recommended the captain to be taken to a hospital as soon as possible. The doctor, using the onboard medical kit, injected anti-inflammatory medicine to relieve pain. The flight crew decided to divert to Keflavik about 12 minutes later broadcasting a medical emergency to Gander Oceanic Control via HF, the captain remained in his seat. About 8 minutes later he reclined the back of his seat and ceased duties as pilot monitoring. He remained conscious all the time and did communicate with the chief flight attendant and the doctor.

During the descent towards Keflavik the captain improved sufficiently that he assumed duties as pilot monitoring again. The aircraft landed safely on Keflavik's runway 02, medical services awaiting the aircraft removed the captain from the aircraft and took him to a hospital.

The hospital released the captain after a short while of monitoring, the captain joined the crew in the hotel.

The first officer did not contact operations center because of the presence of a doctor on board. Cabin crew later informed operations center about the diversion stating because of medical reasons.
Incident Facts

Date of incident
Jan 17, 2011

Classification
Incident

Airline
Air France

Aircraft Type
Boeing 777-200

ICAO Type Designator
B772

This article is published under license from Avherald.com. © of text by Avherald.com.
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