The U.K.’s Air Accidents Investigations Branch says a flight instructor who died while acting as a safety pilot for another pilot had undetected disqualifying medical conditions. The other pilot thought it was all a joke. The 57-year-old instructor died while accompanying a pilot who wasn’t comfortable flying solo in the windy conditions at Blackpool Airport on June 29, 2022. The pilot needed to make the flight to fulfill obligations to the local flying club but the wind was “above (the pilot’s) personal limit to fly on his own.” The instructor did a flight with a student and then hopped in the right seat of the club-owned Piper Cherokee.
Shortly after takeoff, the pilot said he saw the instructor’s head roll back but thought it was a prank. “The pilot knew the instructor well and thought he was just pretending to take a nap whilst the pilot flew the circuit, so he did not think anything was wrong at this stage,” the report reads. At one point the instructor’s head flopped over onto the pilot’s shoulder and the pilot continued to go along with the joke. It was only after he landed that he figured out it was no laughing matter. An autopsy determined the fatal heart attack was caused by multiple blocked arteries and if he’d reported symptoms the diagnosis would have been disqualifying without treatment. He had a current medical but had been treated for high blood pressure for 20 years.