Co-pilot's illness forces Air Canada jet to land


Jan 29, 2008 04:30 AM

Staff Reporter

The co-pilot of an Air Canada flight from Toronto to London has been admitted into psychiatric care at an Irish hospital after "falling ill" in the cockpit during the flight.

Air Canada has revealed little about what happened on board the plane, but did say the pilot of flight 848 made an emergency landing in Shannon, Ireland, at 8 a.m. local time yesterday after his co-pilot became unwell.

Paramedics and a doctor were at the airport to treat the co-pilot, who has been reported by the Irish press to have suffered a nervous breakdown on board the flight.

"It's not unheard of, but it is pretty rare," said Air Canada spokesperson Peter Fitzpatrick of the emergency landing, adding: "At no time was safety an issue or compromised."

Fitzpatrick wouldn't elaborate on the medical emergency that struck the co-pilot, but said the pilot who landed the plane had followed procedure. Irish police would not comment on the incident, nor would other pilots with Air Canada except to say that fatigue issues were not common on a six-hour flight.

A spokesperson with the Irish Health Service Executive told the Irish Independent that the co-pilot was assessed upon landing in Shannon before being removed to the Acute Psychiatric Unit at the Mid Western Regional Hospital in Ennis, County Clare, for further assessment.

The co-pilot remains in the unit, however, details of his condition are not known.

An unnamed source at the airport told the Independent the co-pilot began "acting in a peculiar manner and was talking loudly to himself." That same source said the co-pilot had to be restrained by other crew members and a passenger thought to be a member of the Canadian Forces.

Upon landing in Shannon, the 146 passengers on-board flight 848 were transferred briefly to local hotels but returned to the airport an hour later to reboard their plane, which was piloted by a replacement flight crew that had been flown in from Heathrow Airport in London.

The Boeing 767, which left Pearson International Airport just after 8 p.m. Sunday, arrived at Heathrow around 11:20 a.m. yesterday, seven hours behind schedule.


With files from Tamsyn Burgmann and Pat Flynn for the Irish Independent