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Safety In The Cockpit Big Concern After Pilot Dies

DENVER (CBS4)- Two incidents in the sky in two days have passengers and airline personnel talking about safety.

On Tuesday, a United Airlines co-pilot lost consciousness en route from Houston to San Francisco. The flight was diverted to Albuquerque, New Mexico where it landed safely.

On Monday, an American Airlines flight heading from Phoenix to Boston was rerouted to Syracuse when the pilot had a medical emergency. The plane landed safely but Captain Michael Johnston, 59, of Phoenix, Ariz. died on board.

Jim Faulkner of Frontier Airlines says they take the health of their cockpit crews very seriously.

United Airlines
(credit: CBS)

"They're required by the FAA to have a physical every year. It's required by law. Once they turn forty they must have an EKG every year," said Faulkner.

Pilots are required to report any medical problems they experience and any major medical treatments they undergo. But the system relies on self- reporting.

The FAA has a long list of medical conditions that can preclude a pilot from flying that include:

  • Epilepsy
  • Heart replacement
  • Psychosis
  • Substance abuse
  • Substance dependence
  • Certain types of diabetes

In both of this week's incidents, the other pilot in the cockpit was able to safely land the plane.

(credit: CBS)

Faulkner says that's not surprising, "Both the left and right seats are equally trained and both can do whatever their colleague can do."

The airlines say they are not required to give specific information about a pilot's medical condition to the passengers on board.

Suzanne McCarroll is a general assignment reporter at CBS4. Her stories can regularly be seen on CBS4 News at 5 p.m., 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. Connect with her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter @SuzanneCBS4.

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