File-American Airlines passenger planes are seen on the tarmac at Miami International Airport in Miami, Florida. (AFP/ROBYN BECK)
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An American Airlines captain became gravely ill and incapacitated while flying from Phoenix to Boston and later died, but his first officer safely diverted and landed the plane, an airline spokeswoman said.After the flight's captain was stricken, the first officer safely took over with 147 passengers and five crew members onboard.Aviation experts said there was never any danger to passengers because pilots and co-pilots are equally capable of flying the aircraft.Former airline pilot John Cox, an aviation safety consultant, said when one pilot becomes unable to fly the other will rely on help from the plane's automated systems and get priority treatment from air traffic controllers. Airline pilots must pass physical exams every 12 months, every six months for captains 40 or older.According to the FAA, seven pilots for U.S. airlines and one charter pilot have died during flights since 1994 .
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