A flight was diverted after an Air Canada pilot reportedly freaked out, running out of the cockpit screaming for help and demanding to get off the plane.
The incident took place on a flight from Calgary to Newark, New Jersey, late last week. Passengers said they felt the plane jolt and then saw the pilot come out of the cockpit holding onto a flight attendant. He was screaming for help and had to be restrained in a first-class chair while the flight was diverted to Toronto.
Once the plane landed, paramedics treated the pilot and found what had been an undiagnosed medical condition. Air Canada officials did not comment on the illness that caused the flight to be diverted, but said the airline is careful in medical checks of its pilots.
“I can say that it was an unforseen, previously undiagnosed physical ailment and he is currently on leave,” spokeswoman Angela Mah said. “All Air Canada pilots undergo regular medical checks as per Transport Canada requirements.”
In fact, airline pilots are generally in top shape, said Captain Craig Blanford, president of the Air Canada Pilots Association Capt. Craig Blandford. They receive rigorous heart monitoring and blood work every two years, and are obligated to remain out of the air if they feel “unfit to fly.”
There are also peer programs for pilots to address mental health issues, addiction, and stress, he added.
“We are a very, very healthy group — in fact … we live longer than most Canadians and partly because we live healthy lives and we get monitored by medical staff more,” he said.
But the job still comes with considerable risk. Pilots work long hours with strained eating and sleeping habits. Airline pilot was ranked No. 4 on a recent list of the most stressful jobs.
The Transportation Safety Board said it was notified of the flight diverted after the pilot’s medical episode, but isn’t pursuing it.