Airline Pilots Cannot Be Certified With Known Heart Problems

By Lisa Brooks

A medical examiner in Idaho has confirmed that a United Airlines pilot died from a heart attack he had while flying from Houston to Seattle Thursday night. He passed away in a Boise hospital, after the 2nd officer made an emergency landing.

Commercial and private pilots need to undergo regular medical screenings, in order to maintain their flight certifications. The guidelines issued by the F.A.A. are pretty specific when it comes to what’s required for a first-class airman medical certificate.

At the top of the list is an explicit prohibition of an established medical history or clinical diagnosis of myocardial infarction, or coronary heart disease that has required treatment. Also, if it hasn’t been treated, it can’t be symptomatic.

No flight certificates are issued if an applicant has had a valve or heart replacement. There’s also a requirement that pilots pass an echo-cardiogram on an annual basis after reaching the age of 40. The United Airlines pilot who died of a heart attack was 63 years old.

An investigation of the incident is now underway, and the F.A.A. won’t comment on the situation until it’s completed.

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