A Thai Lion Air B737-900 performing flight SL8537, from Hat Yai (Thailand) to Bangkok Don Mueang Intl. Airport, with 152 passengers on board, was forced to return to Hat Yai after the First Officer lost consciousness 20 minutes after takeoff.
The flight had departed from Hat Yai at 12:15PM and was 20 minutes into the flight when First Officer Peter Esberte collapsed. Director of Operations of the airline, Capt. Worawut Kongkositkul confirmed that the 47-year-old Dutch pilot died while he was being taken from the airport to a hospital.
Mr Worawut said Peter joined the low-cost airline at its launch last year and was healthy with no record of health problems. His latest medical check-up in February and March showed no signs of problems.
After Peter collapsed, the Captain declared an emergency and turned back towards Hat Yai airport, landing safely at 1:21PM.
Aeronautical Radio of Thailand confirmed that Peter died of a heart attack on the airplane.
Thai Lion Air, a subsidiary of Indonesia’s largest private airliner Lion Air, made its maiden flight on Wednesday from Bangkok’s Don Mueang International Airport to the northern city of Chiang Mai.
The airline flies the route twice a day using Boeing B737-900 Extended Range (ER) aircraft.
Thai Lion CEO Capt. Darsito Hendroseputro said the launch of the airline would help Thailand’s air passenger market and reinforce Bangkok’s position as a leading international air hub.
“We have two B737-900ERs in the fleet and we plan to add two more in February. The additional aircraft will be used to increase frequency on existing routes and to launch new domestic and international services such as the Bangkok-Hat Yai and Bangkok-Singapore routes,”
He said the company originally planned to add these two in March 2014, but then decided to move the schedule forward.
He also said that the airline aimed to launch daily non-stop flights from Bangkok to Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur next year.
Source: The Jakarta Post