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Update from Newark Airport on Flight 61

Thursday, June 18, 2009

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Continental Airlines Flight 61 landed safely at Newark Airport this afternoon, after the plane's pilot died in flight. Two co-pilots landed the plane, which originated in Brussels. WNYC's Cindy Rodriguez reported from Newark Liberty Airport.

Most people did not even know that the pilot had died until they arrived here at Newark Airport. Some passengers found out from the gang of reporters who were waiting for them at the terminals. Others heard it from family members here to pick them up. It appears many family members did not hear it from Continental. Most heard it from television and radio news reports. Passenger Kathleen Ledger from Bethlehem Pennsylvania says the only hint that something was wrong was an on-flight announcement asking if there was a doctor on board.

morganPassenger Susan Morgan says that didn't cause her to suspect something was seriously wrong.

'You know it could have been a broken arm, we had a lot of pregnant women on the plane, it could have been any number of things. A dead pilot was not what I expected.'

Otherwise most passengers described a smooth, normal landing.

According to the Associated Press, a cardiologist on board responded to the call and told AP a heart attack likely killed the pilot. Continental Airlines says only that the 60-year-old pilot died of natural causes.

Several passengers said they were glad the crew did not announce what was happening because it may have caused a panic.

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