Pilot thought flight instructor who died in flight was pretending to sleep

A pilot whose flight instructor died after take-off thought he was “pretending to fall asleep,” according to a report by the UK’s Air Accidents Investigation Branch.

On June 29, the 57-year-old instructor and licensed commercial pilot suffered a “sudden fatal heart attack” while flying with a qualified co-pilot in Lancashire, England.

The pair planned to fly Piper PA-28-161 from Blackpool Airport to another airfield.


Shortly after take off, however, the pilot recalled seeing the instructor’s head return. At first, the co-pilot thought the instructor was “just joking” and continued flying, the report said.

“The pilot knew the instructor well and thought he was letting him fall asleep while the pilot was flying the circuit, so he didn’t think anything was wrong at this stage,” it read.

a plane

Piper PA-28-161 Cadet, Cherokee Warrior and American Grumman AA-5B Tiger parked on the apron with the flight school behind. (aviation-images.com/Universal Images Group via Getty Images / Getty Images)

In the end, the instructor “slumped over” and his head was resting on the pilot’s shoulder as he continued to fly.

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“The pilot still thought the instructor was just joking with him and continued to fly,” the report said.

After landing, the pilot knew something was wrong when the instructor was still resting on his shoulder and “not responding.”

Fire and air ambulance medical teams tried to revive him, but he still did not respond,” officials said.

The instructor was determined to have died of acute cardiac failure. The report showed that the 57-year-old man had a medical history of high blood pressure and had been taking medication for it since 2002.

However, he underwent a medical evaluation in February 2022, just four months before the incident.

In addition, people who spoke to the instructor the morning before the flight said that he was “his normal self” and that “there was no indication that he was feeling ill,” the report read.


He had even flown with three for a trial lesson earlier that morning.

The instructor was a full-time senior flight instructor with a total of 8,876 flight hours.

Officials plan to review the circumstances of the incident to determine if anything can be learned or if any changes should be made to current guidance, according to the report.

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