Pilot Suffers Medical Emergency Mid-Flight, Passenger Lands Plane

A passenger aboard a private plane was forced to land at Raleigh-Durham International Airport after the pilot suffered a medical emergency on Sunday, according to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

Joseph Izatt was piloting the plane when he experienced cardiac arrest, according to Inside Edition. Unfortunately, he did not survive. It is unclear if he died mid-flight or on the tarmac.

According to Flight Aware, the plane took off around 3:30 p.m. on Sunday and returned around 4:50 p.m.

The airport reported that someone in the passenger seat took over the controls of the Cirrus SR-20 after the pilot was “slumped over the controls,” according to air traffic control audio.

The passenger who landed the plane was the only other person aboard. It is unknown where it was heading but it took off from Raleigh-Durham International Airport. The plane was registered to Izatt and Coherent Aviation, which is based in Raleigh.

All of the runways remained open and were not impacted by the incident.

Izatt was the Michael J. Fitzpatrick professor of Engineering and chair of Duke University’s Department of Biomedical Engineering (BME). The university lowered its flags on campus in honor of the distinguished professor.

“He was an exceptionally thoughtful leader who weighed every decision with a care that originated with his deep love for the BME community,” Pratt School Dean Jerome Lynch said. “The integrity and humility he brought as a school leader will be missed.”

The professor published over 200 papers and held over 75 U.S. patents, according to ABC11. He also helped develop optical coherence tomography (OCT), a non-invasive technique that is used to help guide diagnosis and treatment decisions for patients suffering from various eye diseases.

On Monday, Duke released the following statement: “Since joining Duke in 2001, Izatt served the university through dedicated service to his students and colleagues, and as a pioneering researcher. During his tenure as chair of Duke BME, he championed the successes of all within the community and worked with faculty, staff and students to ensure the department supported their goals.”

Izatt is survived by his wife and three children.