Manama: The Qatar Airways pilot who died on a flight was a 43-year-old Indian national who worked with the airline for five years, according to a Qatari daily.
Ajay Kukreja suffered a massive heart attack shortly after he took off from Manila's Ninoy Aquino International Airport, and his co-pilot had to fly the plane (Flight No QR645), with around 260 passengers on board, to Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) for an emergency landing.
After the pilot complained of a chest pain, the co-pilot requested permission from the KLIA authorities to land and asked that a medical team be on hand. The passengers on board were not told about the pilot's condition.
However, the pilot was declared dead after the flight landed at KLIA, The Peninsula reported on Thursday.
The entire crew of the plane was changed, and it continued on its journey leaving Kuala Lumpur at 1.15pm and landing in Doha at 3.37pm, more than four-and-a-half hours behind schedule.
Meanwhile Kukreja's body was taken to Serdang Hospital in Kuala Lumpur for a post-mortem. Reports said he 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 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 making arrangements to bring his family over.
Kukreja was from Delhi and had married woman from Goa, 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) had been diverted to Kuala Lumpur after the pilot passed away on board, but gave no further details.