Details Remain Sketchy On Continental Pilot's Death

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The pilot who died while flying a Boeing 757 for Continental Airlines on Saturday afternoon "experienced a serious medical problem which required the aircraft to land immediately," Continental spokeswoman Mary Clark told AVweb on Wednesday. The pilot's name and age have not been released yet by the airline, and the company is not releasing additional details about the pilot or the nature of his affliction, "although he is believed to have died of natural causes," Clark said. She added that he was based in Newark, N.J., and had 21 years of service with the airline. The co-pilot diverted the aircraft to McAllen International Airport in south Texas, where an ambulance crew was waiting. Lt. Scott Luke of the McAllen Police Department told the Houston Chronicle that doctors and nurses who were among the flight's 210 passengers had assisted the crew in trying to revive the stricken pilot. "They had done compressions, CPR on him onboard the aircraft," Luke said. The airplane flew on to its destination in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, later that day, with a new crew. Industry sources told AVweb that the stricken pilot was 58 years old. FAA spokeswoman Alison Duquette said on Wednesday she doesn't expect the incident to affect the agency's policy regarding the age-60 rule one way or the other. Administrator Marion Blakey is expected to announce a decision about changing this rule within the next few weeks, she said. Since November, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) has allowed airline crews to include one pilot up to age 65 as long as the other pilot is under 60. The current age-60 rule has long been disputed by various pilot groups in the U.S., although pilot unions in general support it.