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A flying instructor had a heart attack mid-flight. The pilot with him thought he was joking, according to an investigation.

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A flying instructor had a heart attack during a flight and died – but the pilot with him thought that he was joking, according to a report recently released by the U.K.'s Air Accidents Investigation Branch.

A qualified pilot, who wanted to fly from Blackpool Airport to another airfield, decided the wind conditions were too challenging for him to fly on his own, so he asked a 57-year-old flying instructor to accompany him. 

The instructor first finished a trial lesson, during which three people were on the aircraft. They said nothing abnormal occurred during their flight. 

But shortly after instructor took off with the pilot on his G-BORL aircraft, the instructor's head rolled back, the pilot said in the report. "The pilot knew the instructor well and thought he was just pretending to take a nap whilst the pilot flew the circuit, so he did not think anything was wrong at this stage," the report reads.

The pilot continued to fly the plane after the instructor slumped over and rested his head on the pilot's shoulder. Again, the pilot did not take it seriously. 

The pilot landed the plane with the instructor still resting on his shoulder. The instructor was not responding and the pilot realized something was wrong, so he signaled to crew on the ground. 

The fire and medical crews at the airport tried to revive the instructor but he was unresponsive and died. Further tests determined the instructor suffered acute cardiac failure and his arteries were clogged. He also had coronary thrombus, or a blood clot, in his left stem artery, which provides blood to the heart. He had a history of high blood pressure and was on medication, according to the report.

The instructor worked full-time teaching people how to fly and had accumulated 8,876 flying hours, according to the report. He had a physical just four months before the incident and had the highest class of medical certificate for pilots. 

He seemed like "his normal cheerful self" the morning of the incident, according to people who spoke to him, the report says. 

While this event would not be considered an "accident or serious incident" by the International Civil Aviation Organization's investigation guidelines, the organization's chief inspector initiated an investigation to uncover what happened. 

The investigation determined the instructor likely experienced a cardiac arrest as they took off and had no prior symptoms. 

The Civil Aviation Authority said they will review their cardiac guidance in light of the latest research. Cardiac arrest risks are mitigated when a second pilot is present, but their is a high risk for single-pilot planes, the authority said. 

Only three commercial pilots have suffered heart attacks in-flight since 2005, according to the authority's review of their data. During each instance, the pilot safely landed the plane. 

While there have been several cardiac incidents reported during general aviation accidents, most cases were insignificant, and investigators were unable to determine if the cardiac incident caused the accident. The authority says their safety measures around such incidents seem to be in the right place, but their medical department will further review the risk. 

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