Pilot thought his non-responsive flight instructor was a joke. He had died on takeoff

A pilot showed up at his club with pressure to get in the air. Weather conditions were not ideal that June day in 2022, but he knew he had to put in time, so he asked a flight instructor to copilot. A UK safety bulletin has posted details of what happened next.

The pilot recalled that shortly after takeoff from Runway 28 the instructor’s head rolled back. 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. He proceeded to fly the aircraft round the circuit. As he turned onto base leg the instructor slumped over with his head resting on the pilot’s shoulder. The pilot still thought the instructor was just joking with him and continued to fly the approach. He landed normally on Runway 28 and started to taxi back to the apron. However, the instructor was still resting on his shoulder and was not responding, and the pilot realised something was wrong.

It’s an odd story, a sad one for sure, that touches on trust issues in safety operations.

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