Patti DeLuna, 61, helped the pilot of American Airlines flight 1612 land safely at O’Hare International Airport after the first officer began suffering from flu-like symptoms.
The plane’s pilot followed airline procedure and asked if anyone aboard was a certified pilot, said American spokesman Tim Wagner. When no one was, the flight attendant came forward.
DeLuna earned her pilot's license in 1970 and logged over 300 hours in a Cessna, but she'd not used her training in over 20 years and her commercial license in inactive. But she had the most flight experience of the crew and passengers on board the aircraft.
"On the airplane, we work as a team," said DeLuna. "Nobody's a star. Not even the captain. It's all teamwork."
Wagner didn't land the plane, but she was available to help with the checklist and other landing procedures.
"Things that are a lot easier to do if there are two people in the cockpit," said Wagner.
"I felt like I got the opportunity of a lifetime," said DeLuna, who has been a flight attendant for 32 years. "As sorry as I was that the first officer was sick, this was so great for me. This is way more fun than galley duty."
With the attendant’s help, the flight landed safely Monday evening. The first officer was treated at a hospital and released.