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American CEO: crew took “extraordinary care” of pilot

An American Airlines Boeing 737 takes off at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport. (Star-Telegram/Rodger Mallison)
An American Airlines Boeing 737 takes off at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport. (Star-Telegram/Rodger Mallison) Star-Telegram

American Airlines chief executive Doug Parker said the crew of Flight 550 “took extraordinary care” of the pilot who fell ill mid-flight and later died.

In a letter sent to employees on Monday evening, Parker thanked the crewmembers and airport staff in Syracuse for their teamwork during a difficult situation.

Flight 550 from Phoenix to Boston was diverted to Syracuse early Monday morning when Capt. Michael Johnston, 57, fell ill and later died. Johnston was a Phoenix-based pilot for the airline and first started flying commercial jets for America West in January 1990.

“All of us at American extend our condolences to Mike’s wife, Betty Jean, and to his entire family. They have lost a husband and father, and many of you have lost a personal friend,” Parker said.

Keep reading for the full letter

American Airlines CEO Doug Parker letter to employees

Dear Fellow Team Members,

Today we received the extremely sad news that Phoenix-based Captain Michael Johnston passed away while at work. Capt. Johnston was piloting Flight #550 from Phoenix to Boston early Monday morning when he fell ill. Capt. Johnston was 57 years old.

A graduate of Brigham Young University, Capt. Johnston began his career with America West Airlines in January 1990 as a first officer on the Dash-8. He later flew the 737 and the 757, before being upgraded to captain on the A320.

I want to take a moment to thank Mike’s crewmembers on Flight #550. They took extraordinary care of Mike, each other and our customers. We couldn’t be more proud of the teamwork this crew showed during an extremely difficult time. Our airport teams in Syracuse and Boston were also instrumental in assisting our customers, and their handling is also greatly appreciated.

All of us at American extend our condolences to Mike’s wife, Betty Jean, and to his entire family. They have lost a husband and father, and many of you have lost a personal friend. Taking care of Mike’s family is our focus now, and I know you’ll join me in keeping them in your thoughts and prayers.

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