The captain of the jumbo jet, Boeing 747, forced to make an emergency landing in Dublin, on Nov 19, 2012, has been praised for asking an off-duty pilot onboard to help him land the aircraft. The co-pilot had been taken seriously ill during the flight.

The co-pilot of the plane, carrying 16 crew and 266 passengers, was suffering from dizzy spells, headaches, and vomiting. The 35-year-old co-pilot was unable to perform his duties on the flight from Newark, NJ to Frankfurt, Germany.

He fell ill when the plane was over Newfoundland, but by the time the plane was halfway over the Atlantic the captain had made the decision to divert to Dublin so his co-pilot could receive medical attention.

The Air Accident Investigation Unit (AAIU) reports that the cabin crew identified the replacement pilot, who was off duty, as a passenger on the flight. The 46-year-old was qualified to fly a smaller Boeing, the 767, and worked for another airline. He had 11,000 hours experience.

According to the report the captain checked the pilot’s licence and ID and asked him to replace his co-pilot in the cockpit. The captain commanded and monitored the replacement pilot’s actions during the emergency landing.

The AAIU said “Although the aircraft size and the number of engines were dissimilar, nevertheless the same operational philosophy and systems design tend to carry from one aircraft to another within a manufacturer’s line of products.”

They continued “Consequently this pilot was a good choice and was adequately equipped to provide additional assistance in this situation.

“Incapacitation of a flight crew member is a serious incident and placed the operation outside the certification requirements of a minimum of two qualified pilots to operate the aircraft.

“The situation was dealt with in a professional manner by the commander who, assisted by his cabin crew, employed the principles of CRM and located another pilot to assist him.”