? asked in TravelAir Travel · 1 decade ago

Can an airplane make an emergency stop at another destination if someone is dying?

I am very upset because my aunt, who was like my mom, died on a plane due to diabetes. Our family is angry and I am looking for answers.


-edit- She was already asking for help from people working on the plane, but she was only brought to an extra first class seat instead. After the airplane landed at the destination it was only then they called, and a relative came with her (who was seated in a different area).

8 Answers

  • Fly B
    Lv 5
    1 decade ago
    Favorite Answer

    Airplanes absolutely can. But it's all circumstantial. Stopping a commercial airliner at an unintended destination is not like pulling over in a car. Diverting a large commercial jet to another airport will cost a company millions of dollars. For the purpose of life-saving, this is never a question; the plane will always divert and the company will cover the expense.

    The difficulty, however, is when to make that call. Making the call rests on the shoulders of the Captain. On one hand, there are hundreds of cases of people making false illnesses or just making trouble on the airplane. The crew has to differentiate the real from the false. If it is obvious that someone is in trouble, the crew will make every effort to land the plane as soon as possible. If it is not obvious, or someone's status is unknown, a doctor would be called for on the airplane; or the pilots will use their long-range radios to get a stand-by doctor on the radio to help assess the ill passenger.

    Once it is determined that a passenger's life really is in danger, the crew will make every effort to land as quickly as possible. Sometimes, however, like crossing over the Atlantic, the closest airport might be 4 hours away. Sometimes the nearest airport might not have a hospital or any sort of medical services available, in which case the crew must find somewhere else to go. Sometimes the winds at altitude might be slowing the aircraft's progress.

    I think in your aunt's case, there was either difficulty in determining her illness and/or that her life was in danger; or the flight was simply too far from the nearest airport to get her the medical attention she needed in time.

  • 1 decade ago

    An aircraft can be diverted to a nearby airport in an emergency. However, it doesn't work in real life the way it does in Hollywood movies. The plane cannot just dive down and land in thirty seconds.

    First, the emergency has to justify a diversion. Many emergencies don't, either because the patient's condition is too dire for her to survive until the plane can land and medical care can be found, or because the patient's condition is stable enough to continue on to the scheduled destination. A person with a cardiac arrest, for example, will live or die in the few minutes that follow the start of the arrest, so trying to land immediately won't make much difference (that's why airliners now have defibrillators aboard).

    Second, there has to be an airport within a reasonable distance. The plane cannot land just anywhere; it has to be an airport that can handle airliners, and one that is in within a practical distance of proper medical care. There's no sense landing at an isolated airport if the nearest competent emergency care is a fifty-mile drive from the airfield. Some airports may not have the right kind of care available at all. The nearest major hospital may be too far away to make a landing at the airport useful.

    Third, there are many people aboard, and diverting is very expensive. Unless the medical emergency is one that can be resolved within the time required to divert and land (30-45 minutes at least), and within the time required to find medical care (a few more minutes after landing up to several hours, depending on the landing location), and the medical care will be adequate to deal with the crisis (not likely when flying over sparsely populated regions), there's no point in diverting.

    It's really not much different from other forms of transportation. If someone has a heart attack on a train going through the Rocky Mountains, there isn't much that can be done. The same is true for a Greyhound bus crossing the country, or a yacht crossing the Gulf of Mexico. Sometimes it just isn't possible to get somewhere in time.

    Nobody dies suddenly of diabetes. Some complications of uncontrolled diabetes can be life-threatening, but if it is treated properly, these complications can be minimized or entirely avoided. DKA and hypoglycemic shock are dangerous, but here again, if the patient controls her diabetes properly, these won't occur. Both are emergencies that can sometimes kill a patient before a plane could divert and land. Hypoglycemia can be treated on board, DKA is more difficult to deal with unless insulin is readily available.

    So, however upset you might be, it still may not be the fault of the airline. If your aunt died of complications of diabetes, it almost certainly was not controlled properly, which is essentially her fault. Diabetics fly all the time without incident. As long as they manage their blood sugar carefully, they are at no risk and certainly are not at any risk of dying on board.

  • 4 years ago


    Source(s): Experience Real Flight Simulation : http://FlightSimulator.siopu.com/?RbS
  • 1 decade ago

    Yes they can. If there is an obvious emergency, the crew can notify the pilots, which can immediately jump on a connection with the nearest airport flight control tower and see if they can land there. IT DOESNT MAKE SENSE FOR THEM NOT TO DO THAT WHEN MEDICAL HELP IS SORELY NEEDED.

    Unfortuately, diabetes isnt one of those obvious emergencies that anybody can tell right away. Its kind of like a silent killer. In your aunt's case, MAYBE (just one of the many possibilities and possible details of the situation) she was experiencing problems, but the crew thought she just needed rest, more room or she wasnt able to express how bad it is through her emotions or something. Either way, i dont think the crew was able to know what was going on in her body at that time and she wasnt able to tell them or express them. OR MAYBE, your aunt felt the symptoms and stuff, but she didnt expect them to be that serious. THERE ARE A TON OF MAYBES PRESENT, SO DONT JUST ASSUME ONE THING, ESPECIALLY WHEN YOU WERENT THERE (people do that all the time and i just dont want you guys to be angry at the wrong thing...gotta hold the right thing accountable)

    i'm truly sorry for the loss.

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  • MS
    Lv 7
    1 decade ago

    They certainly can, and will, but it's not a simple matter. It involves redirecting a lot of airline traffic and clearing the way for the plane to land quickly at the nearest available airport.

    The crew has to make the decision of whether it is a true emergency, and sometimes that is a hard decision to make, particularly if the symptoms are vague, the person is walking and talking, etc. I think it's awful that your aunt died on the plane. But I doubt the airline was intentionally negligent. I imagine it was just one of those cases that was hard to identify as an emergency.

  • mstess
    Lv 6
    1 decade ago

    Of course they can land the plane if there's somewhere to land. One time in Vancouver our flight was delayed. Someone had a massive heart attack on the plane between Hawaii and Vancouver. He died when the flight was 1/2 way between. The flight could have returned to Hawaii or carried on to Vancouver (which it did)

    I'm sorry about your Aunt, but she could have died from alot of things. The family will have to wait for the autopsy results to see why she actually died. If she was asking for help, the airline staff probably didn't think it was an emergency if she was walking and talking.

  • Neil
    Lv 7
    1 decade ago

    Yes, of course. But in order to do so they would have to know it was necessary. Lots of people fall asleep on planes. Did they know she was in trouble? How do you know, since clearly your aunt didn't tell you?

  • 1 decade ago

    Yes I think so, but the flight crew is usually trained to deal with all sorts of medical problems that ma occur on board (like heart attacks, ppl with anxiety etc).. obviously there is somethingg wrong with the training involved with this airline.. i think you should do further research.. im sorry if my answer didnt help

    and im also very sorry for your loss

    stay strong

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