HomeHealth Care NewsSudden Death: Airline Pilot Struck Down Midair

Sudden Death: Airline Pilot Struck Down Midair

A passenger jet pilot who died after collapsing just after takeoff from Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport is one of a growing number of “sudden deaths” making news.

Sudden deaths among young athletes and celebrities have alarmed journalists, health professionals, and the public.

For example, U.S. soccer journalist Grant Wahl, age 49, died of an aortic aneurysm while covering the World Cup on December 9, his wife, Celine Grounder, M.D., told CBS. On January 2, 24-year-old Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin suffered cardiac arrest during a game, but three days later was breathing on his own. Victoria Lee, a ONE Championship “rising star”, aged 18, died on December 26 with no cause of death shared.

‘Extremely Dangerous’

Captain Patrick Ford, 54, who had been hired by American Airlines’ regional carrier Envoy Air just two months earlier, was incapacitated midflight, and his first officer then safely landed the aircraft, carrying 57 passengers, back in Chicago.

Ford was pronounced dead upon arrival at a Chicago hospital on November 19, according to Envoy Air.

It is a very rare event for an airline pilot to die in flight, says Jane Orient, M.D., executive director of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons and president of Doctors for Disaster Preparedness.

“Pilots becoming incapacitated in flight is of course extremely dangerous,” said Orient. “I’ve never heard of it happening before.”

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced it would investigate the incident but had not revealed Ford’s cause of death, as of press time. Neither American Airlines nor Envoy Air has revealed any details about Ford’s medical history or cause of death.

‘Near Miss’

Ford’s collapse could have resulted in an air disaster, says Joshua Yoder, a pilot and medical freedom advocate.

“From a time perspective, that was a near miss,” said Yoder. “We know they were probably between 2,000 and 4,000 feet in altitude because the tower cleared them to climb and maintain 5,000 feet. So, they were certainly under 5,000 feet when the incapacitation occurred.”

If Ford had become incapacitated 45 seconds earlier, says Yoder, the airplane could have been in mid-rotation or just above the ground, causing a disaster.

Luckily, the copilot on Flight 3356 was a check airman—an experienced pilot who monitors the competency of new crew members during training, says Yoder.

“Everyone is very fortunate there was a senior check airman in the right seat and not a brand new first officer,” said Yoder. “Had that happened three trips later, there is a high probability there would have been a very junior and inexperienced first officer in the right seat.”

Copilot Brandon Hendrickson knew how to respond to Ford’s incapacitation, says Yoder.

“He did a phenomenal job,” said Yoder. “It was a perfect execution.”

COVID Shot Mandates

Yoder started a nonprofit group called US Freedom Flyers to oppose pilot and passenger vaccine mandates after President Biden announced a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for federal contractors, including major airlines.

US Freedom Flyers successfully sued to overturn the government mandate, but airlines were free to continue to enforce their own. Yoder says the private mandates broke the law because they required vaccinations with unapproved shots that are only allowed under an Emergency Use Authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The FAA website states the agency “requires at least one year of post-marketing experience with a new drug before consideration for aeromedical certification purposes.”

Young Flyers’ Risk

Yoder says 80 percent of airline pilots have been injected with at least one round of shots (boosters are not required), and this puts pilots, particularly at regional carriers like Envoy Air, at risk for heart problems.

“The largest percentage of the regional airline population is males between the age of 23 and 39—that’s by far the largest age group,” said Yoder.

Florida Surgeon General Joseph A. Ladapo recommends against people between the ages of 18 and 39 getting an mRNA vaccination, based on research finding they have a heightened risk of cardiac-related death.

‘Flying with Myocarditis’

The FAA does not require heart tests for younger pilots, says Yoder.

“There’s no cardiac testing among pilots unless requested, until the age of 35,” said Yoder.

After pilots reach age 40, they get one cardiac test per year, but a standard electrocardiogram (EKG) is not designed to detect cardiac inflammation, says Yoder.

“The only cardiac testing that the FAA currently does is an EKG, and an EKG essentially does nothing more than take a snapshot of the heart’s electrical rhythm,” said Yoder. “It doesn’t test for inflammation. … That’s very concerning. In cases of myocarditis, more than 50 percent of people have subclinical cases, meaning they have no symptoms. The very first symptom could be sudden death. We potentially have thousands of pilots that are flying with myocarditis that have no idea. It will not be found on their normal physicals.”

Effective Heart Tests

Other tests, such as Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), could detect heart inflammation, says Orient.

“They should arguably be adding a cardiac MRI to the fitness exams,” said Orient.

Yoder says many pilots are worried that adding cardiac testing to the fitness exam increases the likelihood of detecting a career-ending condition.

“Our goal is not to ground pilots who have these issues and destroy their careers,” said Yoder. “The goal is to find the problem, treat the problem, and get the pilot back on the flight deck.”

Harry Painter (harry@harrypainter.com) writes from Oklahoma.

 Internet info:

Children’s Health Defense: “FAA Pilots Letter,” Filed Dec. 15, 2021 https://childrenshealthdefense.org/wp-content/uploads/FAA-pilots-letter.pdf

The Pete Santilli Show: “Episode #3235: The U.S. Department of Defense Covered Up Airline Pilots mRNA Deadly Shot Data,” Dec. 9, 2022:  https://rumble.com/v200rqm-the-u.s.-department-of-defense-covered-up-the-pilots-data-regarding-the-mrn.html


Harry Painter
Harry Painter
Harry Painter (harry@harrypainter.com) writes from Oklahoma.


  1. There has been a call for no more co-pilots. With the increase in pilots dropping dead during the flight, if this were to occur without a co-pilot, the whole plane-passengers, crew and whoever was unlucky enough to be in the uncontrolled plane’s path would be doomed.
    Legally, as passengers and totally innocent people on the ground or wherever were killed due to deliberate action resulting in unnecessary death, they would not have a leg to stand on. Insurance companies would tell them where to go or hike the premiums through the roof. The deliberate compromising of lives leading to deaths would be first degree murder. Manslaughter is not the appropriate charge because lives were deliberately placed in danger.
    The airline would be fully responsible for compensation for hundreds of passengers, crew and bystanders murdered. Just ONE such massive payout would be over a billion dollars, resulting in the airline going out of business immediately. NOBODY would fly with them ever again. They could never regain their reputation and without passengers, they would become bankrupt overnight. Remember, the fares would go through the stratosphere to pay the massive increase in insurance costs as well as covering the cost of compensation. Would YOU pay substantially extra to fly on an airline that had to recoup costs after deliberately killing hundreds of people? Would you travel by the same airline knowing you were paying through the nose for their malfeasance and continuing the same practices? Any friends that found you supported them would dump you immediately.


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