NEW YORK (AFP) -- A Continental Airlines Inc. (CAL) jet from Brussels landed safely Thursday morning at its scheduled destination of Newark, N.J., after the pilot died during the flight, aviation officials said.
Continental Flight 61, a Boeing 777 carrying 247 passengers, landed safely at 11:49 a.m. EDT at Newark Liberty International Airport, one of the three major airports serving New York City. The arrival arrived a few minutes before its scheduled noon arrival despite delays of other flights amid fog and rain in the area.
Two co-pilots were in control, an official from the Federal Aviation Administration said.
An FAA spokesman, Jim Peters, said he didn't know how the pilot had died, adding that the agency was "providing all the services that are needed."
Continental said in a statement that its pilot, a captain, was 60 years old, based in Newark and an employee of the airline for the past 32 years. The airline had earlier sent incorrect information about his age and length of service, a spokeswoman said.
Continental, the world's fifth-largest carrier, flies daily from the Belgian city to New York-Newark with connections to destinations in the U.S., Canada, Latin and South America, and the Caribbean.
Airlines have lost pilots in flight before. In January 2007, a Continental flight from Texas to Mexico made an emergency landing after the pilot fell ill. The co-pilot safely landed the plane carrying 210 passengers and the pilot died on the ground.
In May 2000, Taiwanese carrier China Airlines was forced to turn back shortly after takeoff when the pilot suffered a heart attack. The co-pilot returned the plane to the airport and the pilot died soon after arriving at a hospital.
In March 1997, a Gulf Air Airbus A-320 skidded at Abu Dhabi airport after a pilot had a heart attack right at takeoff.
Update at 1:59 p.m. ET: The AP reports that one of the doctors summoned to the cockpit to treat the stricken pilot was Dr. Julien Struyven, 72, a cardiologist and radiologist from Brussels.
“He was not alive,” Struyven said, according to the AP. There was “no chance at all” of saving him, he said.
Struyven said he suspected the pilot had a heart attack. He said he used a defibrillator to try and revive the pilot, but it was too late, the AP reports.
May Craig Lennell