On the night of November 19, 2022, Captain Patrick Ford was at the controls of a regional air carrier of American Airlines – Envoy Air. It was a new job and he just switched to AA from another carrier. Captain Brian Hendrickson was the co-pilot. The plane was a 76-seater American Eagle Embraer 175. We don’t know exactly how many passengers were on board but based on the fact that it was the Saturday before Thanksgiving, the plane was probably full. Captain Ford instantly died in his seat, just 20 seconds into takeoff.
Did you know that pilots are forbidden by the FAA to fly a plane during the first 48 hours after they get a Covid injection? It’s true. Here’s the rule on the FAA website. When did that become a rule? I don’t remember seeing any news reports about it. And WHY is it a rule? Does the federal government know something about these shots that they’re not telling us? (That’s sarcasm. Keeps me sane while reporting on these Americans dying “suddenly” from you know what.)
It’s not speculation that Captain Ford died instantly after takeoff. There’s audio of it. Radio traffic from pilots and Air Traffic Controllers is on the airwaves and it’s all public. Nerds sit around recording this stuff and they put it on the internet when incidents like this happen. Nerds make my life easier. I linked to the audio at the bottom of this article. Thanks, nerds!
20 seconds after takeoff, the jet is 2,000 feet in the air. Captain Ford is talking to Air Traffic Control when his voice suddenly cuts out. Dead silence on the radio. A few seconds later, the person in the Control Tower asks nervously, “Can I help you?”
Captain Ford didn’t answer because he was dead. Captain Hendrickson didn’t answer right away, because he was busy. The plane reportedly went into a steep bank and was in the process of almost crashing into the ground when Hendrickson saved the day. He comes on the radio at 37 seconds into the flight to say, “We need to return. Captain is incapacitated.”
I don’t know my way around Chicago very well, but from the plane’s position on the map, it looks like it was over either Elk Grove Village or Itasca when it happened (both are suburbs of Chicago, just west of O’Hare. It was over a residential area, at any rate.
I forget who the old-time comedian was that used to tell the joke about the pilot dying in the cockpit. Bob Hope, maybe? The setup was that he’s nervous about flying and another passenger consoles him by telling him it’s not his time to die. He responds, “But what if it’s the pilot’s time?”
That joke just happened to as many as 76 passengers, and it’s not quite as funny now. The scenario from the joke is a huge part of the reason why passenger flights have a pilot AND a co-pilot. Fortunately, Captain Hendrickson was able to keep the plane from crashing in a residential neighborhood, killing everyone on board and possible more people on the ground. There’s not a lot of open space on the ground in Chicago for a plane to crash into without hitting something important.
Hendrickson got the plane up to 5,000 feet and turned it around before landing safely. Captain Ford was dead in his seat.
American Airlines and Envoy are refusing to answer the perfectly reasonable questions that investigate journalist Alex Berenson is now asking. Questions like, “Was Captain Ford vaccinated or boosted for Covid?” and “How many passengers were on board?” and “What steps if any does AA/Envoy plan to take as a result of this incident?”
I would argue that American Airlines and Envoy have a moral and legal obligation to answer those questions. Most of the airlines forced their pilots to get the shot, often against their will. Pilots thankfully don’t instantly die in the cockpit very often – it’s extremely rare. If Captain Ford was vaccinated and that’s what he died from, the public has a right to know. AA/Envoy cannot argue that it’s Ford’s private medical information, because they A) forced pilots to get vaxed and B) expect the public to put their lives in the hands of pilots.
Here’s the audio of Envoy Flight 3556. You only need to listen to the first 37 seconds of the video: