A veteran pilot has revealed the complicated and surprising situation that occurred when tragedy struck on an airplane.
Doug Morrisa long time Canadian The captain opened up about what happens when a passenger dies mid-flight and the complicated steps the crew must take.
Pilot spent 35 years in the skies, mostly devoted to the Air Canada Dreamliner, but now he’s busy writing his memoir: This Is Your Captain’s Speech – Deck Stories.
The book is filled with the secrets and quirks of the job, but also sheds light on the “extremely sensitive subject” of what happens when a life is lost mid-flight.
Morris writes: “Many people think plane filled with happy passengers flying on the annual pilgrimage to the all-inclusive Caribbean holy places.
“But truth be told, many are traveling to attend funerals or seek medical treatment, and some are flying back to their roots to spend their last days.”
Experienced flyers talk about the death process, starting by immediately contacting authorities about “presumptive death on board”.
Surprisingly, he revealed that the word “supposedly” is used by many airports who consider dead passengers not completely dead until they land.
“Airport like London heather until it is confirmed by the Maritime Administration that the person is not dead.
“Only a licensed physician can declare death; otherwise it is considered ‘clear’,” he explained.
Meanwhile, Morris revealed how flight attendants are given the grueling task of moving bodies and taking care of those sitting around deceased passengers.
“This is another part of their job where they go above and beyond, because it’s incredibly stressful for everyone,” he wrote.
And it comes with a bunch of problems. “If possible, passengers will be removed, but remember, most flights are fully booked. Or, if possible, the body will be removed.”
In a grim case with no options, “the body is covered with a blanket up to the neck, the seat is reclined, eye glasses are used, seat belts are fastened, and pillows are used for cushioning.”
The seasoned pilot also noted that all crews are professionally trained and that all aircraft are supplied with oxygen and defibrillators.
However, there is one consolation, Morris said. “For all my medical situations, there always seems to be a doctor (or highly trained paramedic) on board.
“It could even be three or more people. Doctors certainly have to go to a lot of conferences, which is lucky for the sick passengers and the crew.”
However, the story does not end there when the International Air Transport Association put in place a very strict process after landing.
Flight attendants, as a rule, must “let other passengers leave first and make sure family members stay with the body”.
The body could not be brought ashore “until the appropriate local authorities arrive to care for the body and ground personnel are available to assist family members”.
Does the flight continue when someone dies? Morris says likely not.
“I’ve diverted to a few places on their recommendations, but I’ve also maintained the flight the most times, based on their expert findings.”
Keeping the flight on track to its destination is a “savior for everyone because there’s nothing easy about ‘hitting the curb’ on an airplane”.