US Flight Turned Back Amid Mystery Medical Emergency

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( — January 30, 2016) — The American Airlines flight from London to Los Angeles returned to Heathrow as crew and passengers reported feeling sick, The Telegraph reported.

The first to complain of sickness was a member of the cabin crew, then five other crew members started to feel the same symptoms. Additionally, three passengers also complained they felt sick.  The captain declared a medical emergency and turned the airplane back to Heathrow rather than land in Iceland, which was closer.

AA Boeing 777 with 188 passengers on board was southeast of Iceland when the medical emergency was declared. The standard procedures when an emergency is declared is to land at the nearest suitable airport, if the airport belongs to another country, that country’s authorities need to give permeation for the airplane to land.

A spokesman for American Airlines said the decision to return to London, which was more than 1,000 miles away, rather than land in Iceland, was taken by the cabin crew, The Telegraph reported.

The aircraft landed back at Heathrow shortly after 5pm where passengers were evaluated by paramedics. None required additional medical help. The authorities investigated the cabin airflow system but the final report is yet to come.

Although the procedure amidst an emergency is to land an airplane at the nearest country’s airport, it is a maneuver that pilots always try to avoid. If there is any chance of returning back to the airport from which the flight originated, or reaching the destination airport, captains often choose to keep the airplane in flight longer than to immediately land at the nearest airfield.

“It is not just because it creates additional costs for the airline, or a the ton of administrative procedures and great time delay, but because the captain feels it is the right thing to do and he is obligated to do what is best for the crew,” Captain Aleksic told Newswire, as he had been in a similar situation in the past.

Captain Aleksic was flying over Hungary in JAT’s (now Serbian Airlines) DC-10 flight en-route to the Serbian capital, Belgrade, when the cargo door fell off. “The airplane started to tremor severely and we felt like it might fall apart in midair any second,” Captain Aleksic said.

“We immediately asked for an emergency landing at the Budapest airport and we were on final preparations to land when I commanded the landing gear down. As we set the airplane to the landing configuration, the tremors stopped and the airplane was suddenly manageable. At that moment I decided to cancel the landing and with the gear still down and flaps extracted, we managed to reach our destination and land safely at the Belgrade airport,” Captain Aleksic said as he recalled the incident that occurred decades ago, but a memory still vivid like it “happened yesterday.”

“Honestly, I don’t really know all the reasons I made that decision, and of course, we were lucky. However, I know that every captain would try to finish the flight as planned, if he believes he can do it safely, which is the case in flight AA109 and the captains decision to return the airplane to London,” he concluded.