Trans-Atlantic Airliner lands safely after pilot dies in flight

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A plane of Continental Airlines is about to land at the Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey of the United States, June 18, 2009. A cross-Atlantic jetliner Continental Airlines 61 flight landed safely at Newark Liberty International Airport, New Jersey, Thursday after its pilot died mid-flight while flying from Belgium, carrying 247 passengers, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said.

NEW YORK, June 18 -- Despite bad weather a relief pilot on Thursday landed the Continental Airlines aircraft without incident after its captain died while crossing the Atlantic Ocean from Brussels, Belgium, to Newark, New Jersey, carrying 247 passengers, officials said.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey said the flight landed 11 minutes ahead of its noon EDT scheduled arrival.

Arlene Salac, a spokeswoman for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in New York told Xinhua the aircraft had "declared an emergency and we expedited their landing at Newark," which had been experiencing delays of up to 90 minutes because of weather.

"It landed without incident," she said.

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Julyen Struyven, a cardiologist who attempted to revive the pilot aboard the Continental Airlines 61 flight, receives interviews from media at Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey of the United States, June 18, 2009.

Earlier, Continental said, "The captain of Continental flight 61, which was en route from Brussels to Newark, died in flight, apparently of natural causes."

"The crew on this flight included an additional relief pilot who took the place of the deceased pilot. The flight continued safely with two pilots at the controls," the airline said.

"The company has been in touch with his family and we extend our deepest sympathies," the airline said in a statement. "The deceased pilot was 60 years old, Newark-based and had 32 years of service with Continental."

The family of the pilot, who was not immediately identified, had been notified, the airline said. His death was believed due to natural causes.

The aircraft carrying 247 passengers landed at Newark, across New York Bay from New York City in the U.S. state of New Jersey and was met by emergency service vehicles which trailed the Boeing777 through rain and fog down a taxiway until it docked at a gate.

It is standard operating procedure on commercial airliner flights for the actual piloting of the aircraft to switch between the captain and the first officer. A Boeing 777 requires a flight deck crew of two.