MD11, en-route, near Cape Ashizuri, Japan, 2007

Summary: 

On 10 January 2007, a Transmile Air Services Boeing MD11F First Officer became suddenly incapacitated by seizure during a flight from Anchorage to Hong Kong. A diversion was made and the affected pilot hospitalised where the cause was identified as a previously non-symptomatic brain tumour.

Event Details
When: 
10/01/2007
Event Type: 
Day/Night: 
Day
Flight Conditions: 
VMC

18894

Flight Details
Type of Flight: 
Public Transport (Cargo)
Flight Origin: 
Intended Destination: 
Actual Destination: 
Take-off Commenced: 
Yes
Flight Airborne: 
Yes
Flight Completed: 
Yes
Phase of Flight: 
Cruise
Location
HF
Tag(s): 
Flight Crew Incapacitation
EPR
Tag(s): 
“Emergency” declaration
Outcome
Damage or injury: 
No
Aircraft damage: 
None
Non-aircraft damage: 
No
Non-occupant Casualties: 
No
Occupant Injuries: 
None
Occupant Fatalities: 
None
Off Airport Landing: 
No
Ditching: 
No
Causal Factor Group(s)
Group(s): 
Aircraft Operation
Safety Recommendation(s)
Group(s): 
None Made
Investigation Type
Type: 
Independent

Description

On 10 January 2007, the PNF co pilot of a Transmile Air Services Boeing MD11F operating with a First Officer who was designated and operating as(Cruise Captain[1]) became suddenly incapacitated by seizure during a flight from Anchorage to Hong Kong. A diversion was made and the affected pilot hospitalised where the cause was identified as a previously non-symptomatic brain tumour. The incident occurred over the sea at 30 km southwest of Cape Ashizuri, Kochi Prefecture, Japan.

The Investigation

The official Report on the Serious Incident by the Japan Transport Safety Board (JTSB) states:

"When the serious incident took place, Cruise Captain was at the left pilot seat as the Pilot Flying (PF) (crewmember primarily responsible for aircraft control), and SIC (Second in Command) was at the right pilot seat as the Pilot-Not-Flying (PNF) (crewmember primarily responsible for other than control)."

The Report includes the detailed statements of the flight crew, including the statement of Cruise Captain who points out that as the SIC become unconscious he extended his legs on the rudder pedals and the aircraft began yawing left and right. The SIC was later removed from the right seat and medical emergency was declared. The aircraft then diverted to Kansai International Airport, Japan.

Probable Cause

"It is estimated that this serious incident was caused, when the aircraft was cruising, the Second In Command (SIC) in duty of pilot flying became incapable of performing his duty normally by a loss of consciousness, which followed a sudden headache as a symptom of intra cranial hypertension.

Concerning that the appearance of these symptoms was not predicted, it is estimated to contribute the SIC did not have any subjective symptoms of brain tumors, and detecting brain tumors under current aviation medical examinations is difficult if no subjective or objective symptoms are observed."

Note by the SKYbrary editor

  1. ^ Cruise Captain in the report refers to a pilot certificated as cruise captain by the Malaysian Aviation Authority, and is qualified by the company to act as PIC during cruise only and who was engaged in the operation of the aircraft.

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