Quick thinking pilot saves the day

A plane flyers over the Shanghai skyline. Source: Shutterstock

WHEN you’re cruising at 30,000 feet, the last thing you want is to fall ill. But it does happen more often than you think.

On a recent flight from Shanghai to New York, a passenger started complaining of breathing problems and when the situation didn’t improve, the China Eastern Airlines pilot knew this was more serious than travel sickness.

The 60-year-old unidentified female passenger who was sat in economy class began having trouble breathing as the plane flew over the Bering Sea, Asia One reported.

Cabin crew acted immediately by transferring her to first class where she could lay down flat.

But when the passenger started complaining of an all over tingling sensation and started to slip in and out of consciousness, the cabin crew put out an announcement for medical assistance from any doctors on board.

Three hours later, the passenger’s condition further deteriorated and the pilot, captain Gu Jian, decided to make an emergency landing at Ted Stevens Anchorage Airport in Alaska.

But there was one problem, the plane was way over the weight limit needed for a safe landing due to onboard fuel.

After dumping 30 tons of the fuel mid-air, the plane was able to land safely where the passenger in question was whisked off to a hospital.

“The airplane’s weight was 282 tons, far more than the maximum landing weight,” Jian explained to CGTN. “When the sick passenger needed medical attention for safety reasons, the plane had to descend and dump gasoline at the same time.”

The plane then refueled and carried on its journey to New York, arriving six hours late.

It has since been reported that the sickly passenger was later discharged from hospital and carried on with her trip to the Big Apple the following day.

What’s the protocol for an in-flight medical emergency

While medical emergencies on plane journeys aren’t common, they are inevitable. With over one billion passengers flying through the skies each year, the probability of someone getting sick or even injured while on board is likely.

Medical emergencies are categorized into health and injury. The latter is usually caused by falling luggage or spilling hot drinks.

A health emergency may be spotted by a flight attendant or reported by a fellow passenger. In any case, a flight attendant will carry out an assessment and report the situation to the pilot.

Like in the case above, the lead flight attendant will usually make an announcement for help from any medical professionals on board.

If there is a positive response, the medical professional will be asked to assess the patient and advise the crew on what steps to take.

If it’s negative a response, the flight crew will contact emergency services via satellite phone to ask for assistance.

In either instance, the crew can then make an informed decision about whether to carry on the journey or to make an emergency landing.

If you should ever find yourself feeling very unwell on an aircraft, immediately notify the cabin crew. The sooner they know, the faster they can help you.