American Airlines Flight 550

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American Airlines Flight 550
US AIRWAYS A320 (2681270597).jpg
A US Airways A320, similar to the one in the incident
Date5 October 2015 (2015-10-05)
SummaryEmergency landing following a medical emergency of Pilot
Aircraft typeAirbus A320
OperatorAmerican Airlines [note 1]
Flight originPhoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, Phoenix, Arizona
StopoverSyracuse Hancock International Airport, Syracuse, New York
DestinationLogan International Airport, Boston, Massachusetts[1]

American Airlines Flight 550 was a flight from Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport in Phoenix, Arizona heading to Logan International Airport in Boston, Massachusetts that diverted to Syracuse Hancock International Airport in Syracuse, New York when the captain of the aircraft lost consciousness and died after an apparent illness mid-flight.[3][4][5]


The American Airlines red-eye flight departed from Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport around 12:08AM (MST) and was scheduled to reach their final destination at Logan International Airport.[5][6][7] Four hours into the flight, the captain, Michael Johnston, became unresponsive to crew members.[8][9][10] The first officer of the flight contacted the Syracuse air traffic control tower announcing a "medical emergency, captain is incapacitated, request handling for runway," as one of the flight attendants tried to revive the captain.[11][12][13] Passengers were told by a flight attendant that the captain became ill after turbulence and they would make an emergency landing.[14][15] The American Airlines flight was safely diverted to Syracuse Hancock International Airport shortly after 7:10AM (EST) where emergency respondents were met at the gate, though not rushing to the scene.[14][16] Four to five hours after landing in Syracuse, New York, a replacement crew was summoned by American Airlines to continue the flight to Boston which landed at 12:30PM (EST).[17][18] Passengers were later informed by the new crew that the pilot had passed away.[19]

Cause of death[edit]

The day after the initial incident, it was confirmed that Micheal Johnston had died from natural disease. The wife of the captain later commented that the cause of death was likely related to a double bypass surgery her husband received in 2006.[10][20]


  1. Aircraft was in the livery of US Airways but belongs to American after the merger between the two airlines in 2013. Hence, American is the operator.


  1. "American Airlines (AA) #550". Retrieved 2015-10-05.
  2. "American Airlines flight diverts after captain becomes ill, dies". Retrieved 2015-10-05.
  3. "American Airlines Pilot dies mid-flight". Retrieved 2015-10-05.
  4. "American Airlines Pilot dies during flight Phoenix to Boston". Retrieved 2015-10-05.
  5. 5.0 5.1 "American Airlines Pilot dies on flight to Boston". Retrieved 2015-10-05.
  6. "American Airlines captain dies at the controls despite desperate attempts of air stewardess to save him". Retrieved 2015-10-05.
  7. "American Airlines 550 Pilot Died In Mid-Air, Stewardess Unable To Save Him". College Life, News, Sports, Girls & Entertainment | COED. Retrieved 2015-10-06.
  8. "American Airlines Pilot dies during red-eye flight to Boston". Retrieved 2015-10-05.
  9. "American Airlines Pilot dies mid-flight". Retrieved 2015-10-05.
  10. 10.0 10.1 "Pilot who died on Boston bound flight had double bypass surgery". Retrieved 2015-10-06.
  11. "American Airlines flight diverts after captain becomes ill, dies". Retrieved 2015-10-06.
  12. Morley, Nicole. "Pilot dies at the controls of American Airlines flight". Retrieved 2015-10-06.
  13. "American Airlines pilot dies during flight -". CNN. Retrieved 2015-10-06.
  14. 14.0 14.1 "American Airlines pilot dies mid-flight". Retrieved 2015-10-06.
  15. "American Airlines pilot becomes ill during flight, dies later". Retrieved 2015-10-05.
  16. "American Airlines Flight 550 diverted to Syracuse after Pilot became ill later died". Retrieved 2015-10-05.
  17. "Pilot dies Boston bound American Airlines flight". Retrieved 2015-10-05.
  18. "Boston-bound airline Pilot dies; Co-Pilot lands safely in New York". Retrieved 2015-10-05.
  19. "Passenger says flight where Pilot died was handled professionally". Retrieved 2015-10-06.
  20. "Pilot dies during American Airlines flight". Retrieved 2015-10-06.

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