Delta Boeing 777 Flight Forced To Divert As Pilot Gets Incapacitated

A Delta Boeing 777 made a rare appearance in Moncton, Canada, after the first officer became incapacitated midflight. The May 21st flight was one of Delta’s special cargo-only flights operating between Frankfurt and Chicago. Shortly after the aircraft completed its transatlantic crossing, the incident occurred.

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A Delta 777 diverted to Moncton due to an inflight emergency. Photo: Getty Images

Boeing 777 diverts due to an incapacitated pilot

The Aviation Herald reports that the incident occurred on flight DL3343 from Frankfurt to Chicago on May 21st. Just after completing the transatlantic crossing, the first offer suffered a medical emergency while in the cockpit. The captain called in the relief first officer, and the aircraft diverted to Moncton. Once on the ground, the pilot was able to get to a hospital.

It took 15 minutes to get the Boeing 777 on the ground in Moncton safely. This made for an incredibly fast descent that is acceptable in emergencies like this. In the meantime, the relief first officer and captain provided first aid to the first officer. Reportedly, this included the use of an automated external defibrillator (AED) for stabilization. All of this in a span of 15 minutes would be an incredibly stressful experience. It takes a well-trained pilot and nerves of steel to be able to manage this kind of event.

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The 777 flew a cargo-only mission. Photo: Getty Images

Delta Air Lines offered Simple Flying the following comment:

“Last Thursday’s cargo flight 3343 diverted to Moncton, Canada out of an abundance of caution due to a possible medical issue onboard. The safety of our crew is always our top priority.”

Medical emergencies inflight

Flight crews are trained to handle inflight medical emergencies. And, in the case of serious incidents, crews are trained to divert to the nearest suitable airport. The use of an AED would mean that this could be a life-threatening emergency. At the end of the day, passenger and crew safety is at the top of any airline’s list of priorities.

Aircraft are equipped with medical equipment to handle acute problems inflight. However, it does not come even close to a hospital. Medical kits usually include basic first aid supplies, some common medications, protective equipment, and more. There are also ground-based services that a crew can talk to in case of advice. Or, if there are passengers onboard, the crew may make a cabin call asking for any physicians onboard to assist.

N702DN, the aircraft involved in the incident, is named “The Spirit of Atlanta.” Photo: Tomas Del Coro via Flickr

The aircraft involved

N702DN is a 12-year-old Boeing 777-200LR. The aircraft has a unique decal on the nose naming it “The Spirit of Atlanta.” Atlanta is Delta’s largest hub, and the -200LRs enabled incredible route expansions, including to Johannesburg, South Africa. This aircraft, in particular, was the second 777-200LR to enter the airline’s fleet. The first, N701DN, is known as The Delta Spirit. However, by the end of this year, the 777s will completely exit the airline’s fleet as Delta seeks to streamline operations.

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Cargo-only flights are helping the airline earn some revenue. Photo: Delta Air Lines

In this case, Delta is flying cargo-only flights, so there were no passengers onboard the aircraft. The airline has turned to cargo-only flights as a means of earning some revenue while passenger bookings remain low.

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