By Nadeem Hanif www.thenational.ae
An Emirates Airline pilot in training making a solo flight in Australia blacked out at the controls for almost an hour before waking up to find he was lost and flying over the sea.
The pilot, who has not been identified, was on the return leg of a training flight from Mildura, in Victoria, to Parafield airport, in South Australia on December 27 when he lost consciousness shortly after taking off.
“The pilot completed the first sector to Mildura, Victoria, refuelled the aircraft and consumed lunch and rehydrated,” said the report.
“He reported feeling hot and slightly tired on the ground in Mildura, but well enough to continue the flight.”
He then completed a circuit in his single-engined propeller aircraft at Renmark, before he complained that the glare from the sun was making it hard to see through the front windscreen.
He decided to climb 2,000 metres to allow cooler air into the aircraft after reporting that he was feeling hot and sweaty. At this point, with the aircraft on autopilot, he began to lose consciousness.
Air traffic controllers made numerous attempts to contact him, without success. “The pilot regained consciousness about 55 minutes later over the water and uncertain of his position,” the report said. They guided him back to Parafield airport, where he landed safely.
The day was clear and sunny, and an investigation into the cabin ventilation system found nothing unusual.
Medical tests the following day were inconclusive and experts could not explain why the pilot had blacked out. His medical certificate was subsequently suspended.
Recent research into pilot incapacitation by the ATSB and Civil Aerospace Medical Institute of the US Federal Aviation Administration found that the most common causes of loss of consciousness are gastrointestinal, neurological, cardiac and urological events.
In a statement Emirates said: “As the medical aspects of this case are currently under investigation, Emirates is unable to make any comment.”