United Airlines pilot Henry Skillern suffered a heart attack while manning a flight from Houston to Seattle, which caused crewmembers to stage an emergency landing in Boise, Idaho.

When Skillern, 63, was in cardiac arrest, two doctors aboard the flight performed CPR in the first class cabin as the crew safely took the plane down from the skies. Once the plane landed on the tarmac of the Boise Airport, both firefighters and paramedics attempted to stabilize the pilot, who was still clinging to life. Skillern was subsequently rushed to Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead, hospital spokesperson Jennifer Krajnik told the Washington Post.

Skillern, who piloted for United Airlines for 26 years, would have had to undergo regular medical screenings in order to maintain his Federal Aviation Administration certification. The mandated screenings make Skillern’s serious medical problem mid-flight a rare occurrence. It’s common for flights to have to land for the health concern of a passenger, however, according to Boise Airport spokesperson Patti Miller. In the last two days, the airport had three other emergency landings for such reasons.

Despite the rarity of a pilot becoming debilitated midflight, the crew maintained a composed manner while dealing with the situation – keeping the passengers at ease as they did everything they could to save Skillern while landing the plane. “I’m really impressed with all the flight attendants,” passenger Bryant Magill told Seattle TV station KOMO. “They kept themselves calm. They kept it professional. There was no panic on the plane.”


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The plane was landed by the flight’s first officer and an off-duty pilot who had fortunately been traveling on the flight. Skillern was tended to by doctors from Madigan Army Medical Center.

– Chelsea Regan

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