United Pilot Becomes Unconscious on 767 Flight to Amsterdam, 757 Captain Takes Over

Thursday evening’s United Airlines UA946 Washington Dulles – Amsterdam flight was lightly loaded with just 82 passengers onboard — about two-thirds empty — declared an emergency while at 35,000 feet and 180 nautical miles Northwest of Shannon, Ireland.

The plane’s first officer reported that the captain had become incapacitated. They diverted to Shannon and landed 35 minutes later, where the captain was rushed to the hospital.

Obviously my first thought is with the captain and his family, I hope he is alright and recovers quickly.

What happened next was interesting. United cancelled their Shannon to Newark flight so the pilot of that aircraft could continue United UA946 to Amsterdam.

Shannon – Newark, UA24, was scheduled to operate with a Boeing 757. So the pilot of the 757 went on to serve as captain of the 767.

United says that Shannon – Newark was cancelled due to ‘operational difficulties’.

Probably because I saw this story before having my first cup of coffee in the morning I thought, “well that was lucky for United that the 757 captain was type-rated for a Boeing 767-400.”

United Boeing 757

But of course the 767 and 757 have a common type rating.

The Washington Dulles – Amsterdam flight departed Shannon after 3 hours on the ground.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Probably a well-rehearsed plan for what to do in the case of lightly loaded flights, to force the possibility of cancelling one mid-stream.

  2. So why would UA choose to cxl SNN-EWR? I guess they needed to deliver the aircraft to AMS for the return flight back to the US and they calculated cxl’ing AMS-US would be more expensive than SNN-EWR? After all they’re now on the hook for the EU 261 compensation to all SNN-EWR passengers.

  3. Wow, I wasn’t aware any aircraft had a common type rating. Nice link.

    Can we argue over the use of “alright” versus “all right?”

  4. Alex – good reasoning, but I was kidding. I would not, however, put anything at all passed any of the major carriers if they saw a chance to squeeze out another dollar.

  5. Good that you have published this in such detail. It will enable all the passengers on the SNN-EWR flight to get maximum EU compensation as it can be shown that the cancellation was for no goiod reason. There was a crew ready to fly the plane.

  6. The life of everyone on board depends upon just one thing: finding someone back there who can not only fly this plane, but who didn’t have fish for dinner.

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