Flight Attendant Helps Land Plane at O'Hare

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A flight attendant with a pilot's license stopped her regular duties to take over for a sick copilot, helping to land an American Airlines Boeing 767 in Chicago.

The plane was flying from San Francisco to Chicago's O'Hare International Airport when the copilot became ill with a stomach bug.

"That's when the captain began to solicit help from any passengers with a pilot's license," an American Airlines spokesman told CNN.

Flight attendant Patti DeLuna, 61, stepped forward saying she was a commercial pilot, and took over for the ailing first officer.

"I was the best available [backup pilot] they had on the plane," DeLuna told the Chicago Tribune. "I spent a lot of time in the cockpit looking at the flight deck and asking questions. My first question to the captain was, 'Where are the brakes?'"

According to the newspaper, DeLuna, who has worked as a flight attendant for 32 years, received a commercial pilot's certificate in 1970, and has about 300 flight hours piloting a small Cessna, though she had not flown for 20 years. The flight's purser also had pilot experience, but the captain chose DeLuna.

"I felt terrible for the first officer," DeLuna told the Tribune. "But I was so excited. It was way more fun than serving meals from the galley."

According to the newspaper, DeLuna was not even supposed to be on the flight, but had been called in to replace another flight attendant.

The plane, carrying 225 passengers and seven crew members, landed safely at O'Hare. The ailing co-pilot was taken to the hospital, treated and released.

An American Airlines spokesman said the plane can be flown by one pilot and is actually so sophisticated it can even land itself.

Photo, wbaiv, flickr
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