© 2022 WRVO Public Media
bg.jpg
Your Source for NPR News
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations
Regional News

Updated: Flight diverted to Syracuse after pilot becomes ill during flight, later dies

Hancock-from_airport.jpg
City of Syracuse/Department of Aviation
/
An American Airlines flight was diverted to Syracuse Monday after the pilot became ill during the flight and later died

Updated at 7:00 a.m. Tuesday:

American Airlines has released the name of the pilot who died during a flight from Phoenix to Boston early Monday. That flight was diverted to Syracuse after the pilot became incapacitated. 

Statement from American Airlines CEO Doug Parker:

Today we received the extremely sad news that Phoenix-based Captain Michael Johnston passed away while at work. Capt. Johnston was piloting Flight #550 from Phoenix to Boston early Monday morning when he fell ill. Capt. Johnson was 57 years old. A graduate of Brigham Young University, Capt. Johnson began his career with America West Airlines in January 1990 as a first officer on the Dash-8. He later flew the 737 and the 757, before being upgraded to captain on the A320. I want to take a moment to thank Mike's crew members on Flight #550. They took extraordinary care of Mike, each other and our customers. We couldn't be more proud of the teamwork this crew showed during an extremely difficult time. Our airport teams in Syracuse and Boston were also instrumental in assisting our customers, and their handling is also greatly appreciated. All of us at American extend our condolences to Mike's wife, Betty Jean, and to his entire family. They have lost a husband and father, and many of you lost a personal friend. Taking care of Mike's family is our focus now, and I know you'll join me in keeping them in your thoughts and prayers.

Johnston's body was taken to the Onondaga County Medical Examiner's office for autopsy. According to a statement, Johnston died of "natural causes." 

Here is the full statement from the Medical Examiner's office:

The Onondaga County Medical Examiner’s Office has completed the autopsy of the American Airlines pilot that died in-flight on 10/5/2015. The autopsy examination and preliminary toxicology testing showed that the death was the result of natural causes. Confirmatory testing and investigation are ongoing.

Original Post

An American Airlines flight from Phoenix to Boston was diverted to Syracuse Monday morning, after the pilot became ill during the flight and later died.

According to the airline, the flight departed from Phoenix just after midnight Sunday. At some point during the flight, the pilot became incapacitated. The copilot took over the flight, which landed safely at Syracuse's Hancock International Airport just after 7 a.m. Monday morning. 

147 passengers and five crew members were on board the flight. According to the airline, the passengers boarded a flight to Boston, with a replacement crew, later in the day. 

Full statement from American Airlines:

American Airlines Flight 550, an Airbus A320, diverted to Syracuse Hancock International Airport (SYR) early Monday morning due to pilot illness. Unfortunately, our pilot passed away. We are incredibly saddened by this event, and we are focused on caring for our pilot’s family and colleagues. We are also taking care of our customers and sent a replacement crew to SYR to get them to Boston. The flight originally left Phoenix at 11:55 p.m. local time Sunday and landed in SYR at 7:13 a.m. local time Monday. There were 147 passengers and a crew of five.