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EasyJet co-pilot suffers mid-air anxiety attack

UK News | Published:

The captain was forced to land the plane on his own after the co-pilot became incapacitated.

An easyJet co-pilot suffered a mid-air anxiety attack (Gareth Fuller/PA)

An easyJet co-pilot suffered a mid-air anxiety attack and left the cockpit of a plane approaching Glasgow International, an accident report said.

His feeling of unease had built up after an incident while flying the previous day, according to the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB).

The captain was forced to land the plane on his own after the co-pilot became incapacitated.

Some 148 passengers and six crew were on board the Airbus A319 flying from Stansted on September 30 last year when the anxiety attack occurred.

The AAIB report stated that the captain and co-pilot were flying together to Palma de Mallorca, Spain during the previous day when a change in wind moved the plane towards the edge of the runway as it was coming in to land.

The captain took over control from his colleague and aborted the landing.

The co-pilot had not experienced this type of incident before, the AAIB said.

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He believed it was a frightening and serious event, and it triggered self-criticism and performance pressure.

He only slept for around four hours that night, and during flights the following day from Glasgow to Stansted and back he felt increasingly nervous.

He was “over-thinking” the need for a good approach to a runway, he told investigators.

“Eventually, his emotions and associated physical symptoms overwhelmed him,” the AAIB said.

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Investigators concluded that the captain’s mention of windshear may have caused the co-pilot’s anxiety to develop into panic.

The latter’s ability to cope effectively with his emotions would have been reduced by his lack of sleep, according to the report.

The investigation found that the pilots failed to communicate effectively regarding the emotional issues the co-pilot was experiencing.

It noted that it was the co-pilot’s responsibility not to fly if he was unfit, but he felt well enough to report for duty at the start of his shift.

He was not aware of programmes offered by easyJet through which he could have discussed the aborted landing anonymously.

After support from the airline and medical professionals, he was assessed as fit to return to flying.

An easyJet spokeswoman said: “EasyJet assisted with the AAIB’s investigation which confirmed that the captain performed a safe landing with the help of the crew and air traffic control.

“The safety of those onboard was not compromised at any time.

“The safety and well-being of our passengers and crew is the airline’s highest priority.

“We always take steps to ensure that our pilots are fully fit to operate.

“We offer support through an employee assistance programme, pilot peer support programme and we have a full occupational health provision.

“All pilots are licensed under aviation regulators and as part of this are subject to extensive regular medical assessments which include mental health assessments.

“After being fully supported by easyJet, his aviation medical examiner and other medical professionals, the co-pilot was assessed as fit to return to flying.”

It emerged last month that an easyJet pilot was grounded after reportedly telling friends he was suicidal.

The airline said at the time it was offering him support.

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