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Two Cathay pilots suffer vision impairment during flights

In what Hong Kong’s aviation incident authority classified as “serious incidents”, two Cathay Pacific pilots suffered a loss of eyesight on two different flights a month apart.

Their co-pilots, both first officers, had to take control and subsequently landed the aircraft safely, says Hong Kong’s Air Accident Investigation Authority says in a media statement.

It has classified both incidents as a “serious” case of “flight crew incapacitation”.

The two flights involved a Boeing 777-300 flying from Sapporo to Hong Kong on 26 January 2019, as well as an Airbus A350-900 returning to Hong Kong from Perth on 21 February.

According to the authority’s preliminary investigation report into the incident, the Airbus A350-900 was flying somewhere near Manila towards Hong Kong when the captain informed his first officer that he “felt out of breath and his vision was impaired”.

The first officer, who was not named in the report, then assumed command of the aircraft, while the crew sought medical assistance from a medical professional on board the aircraft, the report says.

The aircraft was carrying 270 passengers and 13 crew members.

In the January incident, the aircraft was flying west of Taiwan when the captain “experienced a sudden loss of visual acuity” for about 30 minutes, the report notes.

The first officer took over command of the Boeing 777-300, which was carrying 348 passengers and 16 crew, after he was informed by the captain, and landed the aircraft safely at Hong Kong.

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