Dubai, Oct. 15 (PTI): A pilot from Mumbai working for Qatar Airways died mid-flight from a heart attack, forcing the co-pilot of the plane with 260 passengers to make an emergency landing at Kuala Lumpur.
Ajay Kukreja, 43, who had been working with the airline for five years, was piloting the Manila-Doha flight QR645 when he suffered the heart attack on Wednesday.
After Kukreja complained of chest pain, the co-pilot requested permission from the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) authorities to land and asked that a medical team be on hand, The Peninsula of Qatar reported.
The passengers on board were not told about the pilots condition, the report said, adding that he was declared dead after the flight landed at the Kuala Lumpur airport. Kukrejas body was taken to Serdang Hospital in Kuala Lumpur for post-mortem. The report in the paper said he had died of a massive cardiac arrest.
Sources close to his family in Doha told the newspaper Kukreja had no past history of heart problems. However, he was asthmatic and always carried an inhaler. His body was flown directly from Kuala Lumpur to Mumbai, where his parents live.
Kukrejas wife is from Goa and the couple have two children, a 13-year-old boy and a 10-year-old girl. He had been living in Doha for the past few years. An airline official had informed his wife about the sudden death and she had left for Mumbai for her husbands last rites.
The entire crew of the plane was changed at Kuala Lumpur airport and it continued on its journey to Doha, where it arrived more than four-and-a-half hours behind schedule. The paper quoted a top aviation official as saying the death was a tragedy that could happen to any airline.
Captain Nikolaos Antypas, adviser and general secretary of the Middle East Safety Roadmap, said it was a tragedy that could happen any day and major airlines like Qatar Airways were always prepared to respond to such emergencies. Co-pilots are always trained to take charge in such situations, Antypas told The Peninsula.