A tragedy occurred during a sightseeing flight in England last summer: the co-pilot of a Piper PA-28 died in the cockpit during the flight. A security investigation has now worked up the exact circumstances of his death. Disturbing details came to light: the pilot believed his colleague wanted to play a trick on him.
He assumed that the co-pilot had pretended to be asleep and thought it was a joke. So he calmly finished the flight. In reality, however, the co-pilot had suffered a sudden cardiac arrest, which was later determined to be the cause of death. The pilot only found out after landing that the man next to him had died at his side during the flight.
The 57-year-old deceased was apparently an experienced pilot and had also worked as a flight instructor. He had accompanied his colleague because of the difficult wind conditions that day. He had completed a medical test four months before the tragic incident. The agency's report said his head fell on his colleague's shoulder. However, the pilot did not take it seriously. He only noticed "that something was wrong" after landing.
In the aftermath of the incident, the competent authority primarily dealt with the lessons that can be drawn from it with regard to medical precautionary measures for the future. In this case everything went well, but on another flight "the outcome could have been completely different" - for example with a less qualified pilot on board. Ultimately, however, the authority came to the conclusion that the current regulations for medical examinations for pilots were sufficient. This is also supported by the low frequency of such incidents. A residual risk can never be ruled out.
Sources: BBC / Air Accidents Investigation Branch