Skip to main content

American Airlines Co-Pilot Dies Mid-Flight

An American Airlines co-pilot died in the middle of a flight on March 29. 

William Grubbs was co-piloting Flight 1353 on a Boeing 737-800 from Dallas-Fort Worth to Albuquerque, New Mexico, reports USA today. The flight left at 2:51 p.m. and was scheduled to land at approximately 3:50 p.m.

Daniel Jiron, airport public relations manager at the Albuquerque International Sunport, said that at approximately 3:30 p.m. the control tower received a call from the flight. 

"We've got an issue with one of the pilots," the captain said, according to NBC News. 

"Literally just minutes before they landed the tower received an emergency call from the plane saying they had a medical emergency," Jiron told USA today. "It did land without incident."

Grubbs had fallen ill only 2 miles from the airport, reports the Daily Mail. 

Medical personnel were on the scene to meet the plane after it landed at approximately 3:37 p.m. The medics spent 40 minutes performing CPR on Grubbs but were unsuccessful in reviving him. 

About an hour after the initial landing, the Office of the Medical Investigator was called to the scene, indicating that Grubbs had died, according to the Albuquerque Journal. He was 57 years old.

Passenger Donna Tolmas tweeted about the event in real time as it unfolded. 

"Co-pilot passed out during flight or during landing on a flight from Minneapolis to Albuquerque," the tweet, posted at 3:39 p.m., read. "They won't let us off the plane."

American Airlines released a statement following Grubbs' death.

"American Airlines is deeply saddened by the death of first officer William 'Mike' Grubbs," spokeswoman Polly Tracey said. "We are taking care of first officer Grubbs' family and colleagues and our thoughts and prayers are with them during this difficult time."

Grubbs' cause of death has not yet been released.

This is not the first mid-flight death on an American Airlines flight. In October 2015, NBC News reported that Captain Michael Johnston died of a heart attack in the middle of a flight from Phoenix to Boston. While that flight had to be rerouted to Syracuse, New York, it also landed safely.

Grubbs' colleagues and friends took to Facebook to post their condolences and to reminisce about their experiences with Grubbs. In addition, they expressed concern for Grubbs' family.

"Fifty-seven, married with one child," wrote one former colleague. "I was hoping it wasn't Mike, but you can't wish this on someone else. Just so sad. He really was a nice guy. My appreciation to him touching my life."

"What a good guy," said another former co-worker. "I loved flying with him. That's got to be devastating to his family. I wish them all best. So sad."

Sources: USA Today, Daily Mail, Albuquerque Journal, NBC News (2), Donna Tolmas/Twitter / Photo credit: Oliver Holzbauer/Flickr

Popular Video