Qatar Airway pilot who died in flight is Indian national

October 14, 2010

Ajay Kukreja

The Qatar Airways pilot who died in flight is a 43-year-old Indian national who worked with the airline for five years, a Qatari daily reported.

Ajay Kukreja suffered a massive heart attack shortly after he took off from Manila’s Ninoy Aquino International Airport, and the co-pilot flew the plane (Flight No QR645), with around 260 passengers on board, to Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) for an emergency landing.

He requested the KLIA authorities for permission to land after the pilot complained of chest pain, and urged that a medical team be kept ready to provided medical care.

However, the medical team declared the pilot dead after the flight landed at KLIA. The passengers on board were not told about the pilot’s condition, The Peninsula reported on Thursday.

Qatar Airways, which has an office in Kuala Lumpur, changed the entire crew of the plane and it took off from Kuala Lumpur at 1.15pm (local time) and landed in Doha at around 3.37pm (Qatar time), more than four-and-a-half hours behind schedule.

Kukreja’s body was taken to Serdang Hospital in Kuala Lumpur for a post-mortem and reports said he had died of cardiac arrest. He reportedly suffered a heart attack roughly an hour after the flight had left Manila.

Sources close to his family in Doha said that he had no past history of heart problems. However, he was asthmatic and always carried an inhaler.

His body will be flown to Mumbai directly from Kuala Lumpur, and Qatar Airways is also said to be making arrangements to fly his grieving widow and two children to India’s financial capital.

Kukreja was from Delhi and had married a Goan, but his parents live in Mumbai. He has been living in Doha and working with Qatar Airways for five years.

His widow teaches in a nursery in Doha, and the couple’s two children, a 13-year-old boy and a 10-year-old girl, are students.

A Qatar Airways official reportedly visited the widow to break the tragic news of her husband’s sudden death. Earlier, however, a close friend had driven her from the nursery to the couple’s home.

“She had an inkling that something was wrong,” sources close to the grieving family told The Peninsula.

In a brief statement issued by Qatar Airways on Wednesday, the airline confirmed that its Manila-Doha flight (QR645) was diverted to Kuala Lumpur after the pilot had passed away on board, but gave no further details.

“Qatar Airways’ priority, as always, remains the comfort and safety of its passengers and staff,” the company said.



About the author

Born August 3, 1960 in Monastir, Tunisia
Media career:
  • ABC News (Tunisia)
  • Bahrain Tribune
  • Gulf News
  • Bahrain Television News
Teaching career:
  • Monastir (Tunisia)
  • University of Bahrain
  • MA  Mass Communications, University of Leicester
  • BA  in English & US literature and studies, University of Tunis

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