A China Airlines (CAL) pilot suffered an apparent heart attack and fell into a coma just after taking off on a flight to Vietnam yesterday morning, forcing the co-pilot to abort the flight and make a quick return to Taipei.
None of the 259 passengers and 14 crew members on board were injured, and their Airbus A300-600 took off again by late mornings with a new pilot at the control, CAL spokesman Scott Shih (
Shih said Captain Gueorgui Gueorguiev, a 45-year-old Bulgarian pilot, fell into a coma while flying over Penghu just 20 minutes after Flight CI681 took off from Chiang Kai-shek International Airport (
After failing to revive the pilot, co-pilot Lin Hsin (
China Airlines then asked A300-600R chief engineer Chin Cheng-yueh (
The plane safely landed at CKS airport at 8:55am.
Gueorguiev was rushed unconscious to the hospital and pronounced dead at 10:25am.
The airline said the pilot had suffered a heart attack, according to doctors who examined him.
However, the managing director of Taiwan's Aviation Safety Council, Kay Yong (
Yong added the council will launch an investigation into the last 72 hours of the pilot's life. Yong also praised the co-pilot's "calmness" in handling the incident.
In a new measure to boost safety, China Airlines will be req-uired to set up its own in-house medical clinic, said Chang Yu-hern (
International regulations don't call for such clinics, but many airlines have them, including China Airlines' Taiwanese competitor, EVA Airways Corp (長榮航空). The clinic will serve as ``an additional defense'' in efforts to make flying safer, Yong added.
China Airlines pilots are now required to undergo health examinations every six months at the Civil Aviation Medical Center (航醫中心), which is overseen by the Civil Aeronautics Administration.
Gueorguiev passed his last health check in November and was scheduled to take another at the end of this month, China Airlines said.
The Bulgarian pilot showed no signs of illness on his previous flight from Kuala Lumpur to Taipei via Hong Kong, China Airlines officials said.
Gueorguiev joined China Airlines in 1998 as a veteran pilot with a total of 10,451 flying hours. While locally trained, co-pilot Lin had a total of 751 hours, Shih said.
Another CAL co-pilot died of a heart attack on a Tokyo-Taipei flight six years ago.
CAL has been dogged by safety issues ever since one of its Airbus A300s crashed at Taiwan's main international airport two years ago, killing 203 people.
The airline tried to improve its image by hiring Germany's Lufthansa Technik AG, a subsidiary of Lufthansa German Airlines, to train its pilots and engineers in higher safety standards.
The contract expired last year and was not renewed.
Last August, three people were killed when a China Airlines MD-11 jet bounced off the runway, flipped upside down and burst into flames as the pilot attempted to land during a tropical storm at Hong Kong's international airport.
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